russia, activism, surveillance, visibility
This paper examines how Russian opposition activists negotiate online visibility—their own and that of their messages and campaigns—and the security concerns brought on by the pervasive digital surveillance that the state resorts to in order to reinstate its control over the online discursive space. By examining the internet-based presence and activity of the members of Alexey Navalny’s FBK (Anti-Corruption Foundation) and other opposition activists, the paper traces connections between everyday security practices that these activists engage in online and the resistance tactics and repertoires they enact in an environment where the free and open exchange of information on the Russian internet is becoming increasingly difficult. The analysis finds that Russian opposition activists place a high value on digital, media, and security literacy and that navigating the internet using security tools and protocols such as VPN, two-phase authentication, and encrypted messaging is increasingly seen as the default modus operandi for those participating in organised dissent in Russia to mitigate growing state surveillance. Furthermore, the analysis reveals that Russian activists have to balance the need for security with growing visibility—a key factor for entering the mainstream political and social discourse. The tension between being secure and being visible emerges as a key aspect of resistance practices in an environment of near-constant state surveillance, as activists concurrently manage their safety and visibility online to minimise the risks posed by government spying and maximise the effect of their dissent.