Press release №2340
28.05.2021
INTERNET: OPPORTUNITIES OR THREATS?

IN BRIEF

  • Most of Russians believe that certain types of information can be censored depending on its type (60%)
  • The share of those who agree that the Internet is full of misinformation has increased by 30 p.p. since 2006
  • Every second Russians thinks that the development of cyberspace uniting the entire world is beneficial to society, as seven years ago (54%, +1 p.p. since 2013).

April 6, 2021. Below are the results of a survey on the Russian perceptions of the Internet and possible Internet censorship.

Online censorship

More than half of Russians consider that censorship can be applied depending on the type of information being disseminated (60%). Eleven percent of respondents think that disseminating the information on the Internet should be free. A quarter of respondents consider that any information disseminated online should be censored (26%), which is 20 p.p. less than in 2014.

What kind of information should be restricted on the Internet?

An overwhelming majority of Russians consider that any information related to weapons, explosives and manufacturing improvised firearms should be restricted (91%). The same percentage thinks that restrictions should be imposed on the information referring to calls to join radical or extremist organizations or movements (91%).

Calls to join religious sects and suicide-related information should also be restricted (89% and 88%, respectively). Most of respondents would censor sexually explicit materials (84%, −6 p.p. since 2012), and violence, aggression and cruelty in video/computer games (82%, −9 p.p. since 2012).

Three-quarters of Russians (73-74%) believe that access to texts and videos containing strong language and information about “MMM-type financial companies should be restricted.

Most of Russians agree that it is important to combat such information on the Internet in order to reduce threats to the public (78%, −9 p.p.). Fourteen percent of respondents think the government should not combat this type of information on the Internet.

Almost half of Russians could not express their opinions on the current state and non-state policies aimed at combatting the spread of negative information over the Internet (44%, +15 p.p. since 2012). One-third of respondents consider it ineffective (32%, −20 p.p. since 2012); 19% point out its effectiveness.

Attitudes towards censorship

Sixty-five percent of respondents do not perceive Internet regulation as an infringement on their personal freedom. They are opposed by 30% of respondents.

Three-quarters of Russians using the Internet say that it is unlikely that demonstrations in their cities against tightening control over Internet will occur (74%, −10 p.p. since 2014). Seventeen percent of Russians oppose this stance.  An overwhelming majority of respondents are not willing to take part in mass protests against tightening control over Internet (87%).

Russian nationwide VCIOM-Sputnik survey was conducted on March 7, 2021. A total of 1,600 of Russians aged 18 and older took part in the survey. Results are based on telephone interviews. Stratified dual-frame random sample based on a complete list of Russian landline and mobile phone numbers was used. The data were weighted according to selection probability and social and demographic characteristics. The margin of error at a 95% confidence level does not exceed 2.5%. In addition to sampling error, minor changes to the wording of questions and different circumstances arising during the fieldwork can introduce bias into the survey.

The Internet is full of different kinds of information. In your opinion, should any kind of information be disseminated freely, with no restrictions across the Internet, or should there be regulations (for example, state regulation)?  (closed-ended question, one answer, % of total respondents)
  2014 2021
Information should be disseminated freely and without censorship across the Internet   10 11
Information disseminated online needs regulation (censorship) 46 26
It depends on the type of information being disseminated 37 60
Don’t know 7 3
In your opinion, should the user’s access to the following information be restricted or available without restrictions? (closed-ended question, one answer, % of total respondents)
  2012 2016 2021
Texts and videos containing strong language
Free 12 17 23
Restricted 84 78 74
Don’t know 4 5 3
Financial non-state (joint-stock) “MMM”-type companies
Free 19 14 17
Restricted 75 75 73
Don’t know 6 11 10
Sexually explicit content
Free 6 8 12
Restricted 90 88 84
Don’t know 4 4 4
Calls to join religious sects
Free 4 4 8
Restricted 91 92 89
Don’t know 5 4 3
Calls to join radical, extremist organizations and movements
Free 5 3 4
Restricted 92 93 91
Don’t know 3 4 5
Suicide-related content
Free 7 6 9
Restricted 89 90 88
Don’t know 4 4 3
Scenes of aggression, violence and cruelty (videos, computer games, clips, etc.)
Free 6 7 14
Restricted 91 90 82
Don’t know 3 3 4
Information about weapons, explosives and manufacturing of improvised firearms
Free 6 7 6
Restricted 89 90 91
Don’t know 5 3 3
Which statement are you more likely to agree with?   (closed-ended question, one answer, % of total respondents)
  2012 2021
No point in combatting this type of online content; it is useless because the Internet is uncontrollable. Experienced IT engineers (hackers) can easily bypass any barriers 10 14
Combatting this type of online information is important, because reducing the amount of this information may decrease the threat coming from the spread of this information 87 78
Don’t know 3 8
In your opinion, are the current state and non-state policies aiming to combat the spread of this information across the Internet effective, i.e. are they sufficient to change the situation for the better – to reduce the amount of this information, to make it less available to the public, or ineffective?  (closed-ended question, one answer, % of total respondents)
  2012 2021
Likely to be effective 13 19
Likely to be ineffective 52 32
I know nothing about it; I cannot assess it 29 44
Don’t know 6 5
Do you agree or disagree with the statement “Internet regulation infringes upon my personal freedom”? (closed-ended question, one answer, % of Internet users)
  2014 2021
Definitely agree 9 13
Likely to agree 29 17
Likely to disagree 40 39
Definitely disagree 15 26
Don’t know 7 5
In your opinion, are protests and demonstrations against tightening the control over the Internet (website shutdown, mandatory login to access websites, etc.) possible in your area (city/rural area) today? (closed-ended question, one answer, % of Internet users)
  2014 2021
Quite possible 14 17
Hardly possible 84 74
Don’t know 2 9
If mass protests against tightening the control over the Internet take place, will you personally take part in them, or not? (closed-ended question, one answer, % of Internet users)
  2014 2021
Likely to take part 8 11
Unlikely to take part 87 87
Don’t know 5 2
  Results of our study
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