The Russian government’s policy regarding the internet is often assessed in binary terms. Writers on the topic suppose that the authorities are either on the path to fully controlling the Russian internet (RuNet), or that they are unable to do so, thus suggesting that the technology poses a serious threat to the Kremlin. However, taking into account Russia’s legal culture and its widespread practice of ‘selective law enforcement’ allows us to gain a more nuanced picture of the Russian authorities’ strategic use of the online sphere. This article examines the selective application of internet regulations as a tool of strategic communications directed at different online audiences. We show that selective enforcement of the law allows authorities to delineate the boundaries of permissible political speech, shaping citizens’ online behaviour while avoiding the potential backlash that could arise from imposing large-scale restrictions on internet users in general.

Keywords—strategic communications, strategic communication, Russia, RuNet, information control, internet regulations, Russian law

About the Author: Milàn Czerny is an MPhil student in Russian and East European Studies at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. He holds a BA degree from the department of War Studies, King’s College London.


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