digital rights, networked citizenship, Russia, affordances
The Russian government’s crackdown on free speech online has seen social media users jailed and fined for publishing critical content. Digital rights activists have cautioned Russians to delete their accounts on platforms that cooperate with law enforcement, but also have advocated for the use of privacy and secure tools. How do these actions inform emergent articulations of networked citizenship in Russia? Using activity reports published online by the state Internet regulator and two digital activist groups, I conduct a narrative analysis of how both parties interpret networked citizenship. I find that the networked authoritarian Russian state embraces the ideal of the dutiful networked citizen online as visible, vulnerable, and controlled, exploiting the melding of public and private aspects of networked publics. Instead, Russian digital rights activists advocate for a self-actualizing networked citizen who exercises agency online by becoming less visible, often ephemeral, and therefore, more secure. This reinterpretation contests the traditional affordances of networked publics and questions conventional ideas of citizenship, agency, and digital rights in the context of non-democratic societies.