Staunton, March 16 – Fifty-one percent of Russians favor blocking unreliable information spread via the Internet, but the same percentage opposes blocking personal accoiunts or personal webpages on social networks, according to a new VTsIOM poll (wciom.ru/analytical-reviews/analiticheskii-obzor/socialnye-seti-i-cenzura-za-i-protiv).
That pattern suggests that Russians will be more supportive of government moves against specific types of information than against social media as a class and that the Kremlin may thus decide to cast any actions against the latter as being in fact about blocking the former lest it provoke an explosion.
A majority of Russians, the polling agency says, use various social networks and messenger services, with younger people showing far higher levels of such use than their elders do. And half of all Russians say that it is possible to distinguish “always or almost always” unreliable information distributed online.
Seventy-eight percent of those aged 18 to 24 and 62 percent of those aged 25 to 34 express that view. Older cohorts are less likely to do the same. As a result, among Russians as a whole, VTsIOM says, 51 percent favor blocking unreliable information disseminated online, a figure that rises to 65 percent among those, mostly older, who don’t go online or do so rarely.
Just under one in four (23 percent) say that only unreliable information that presents “a serious threat” should be blocked, while “14 percent support the view that even potentially harmful information should be blocked.”
The poll also found that 48 percent say they find it difficult to assess what the government is doing now, with 29 percent saying they approve official actions but 19 percent disapproving. Among the active users of the web, the latter figure rises to 24 percent, VTsIOM says.
Fifty-one percent of Russians consider blocking personal accounts or pages without a court order impermissible, with that figure rising to 61 percent in the capitals and 58 percent in other large cities. At the same time, 38 percent say that such blocking without a court order should be permitted.
Russians know about the blocking by Twitter and Facebook of the accounts of people like Donald Trump and Andrey Navalny, and generally oppose such moves. But more than half – 52 percent – say that this is permissible only if those involved are spreading provocative or unreliable information.
Forty-nine percent of Russians say any such blocking is censorship, a figure than rises to 70 percent among active users of the web, who are younger and more urban than the country as a whole. Russians, in single digits, favor blocking accounts, imposing fines, or countering bad sites with good ones.