50% of moderate “illegal messages” on VKontakte (the “Russian Facebook”), as many on YouTube, 38% on TikTok, 17% on Instagram: this is the proportion of messages “Encouraging minors to participate in illegal mass demonstrations” that the telecommunications and media monitoring agency (Roskomnadzor) is pleased to have removed from these social networks this Friday, January 22. Contacted by The world, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube did not immediately confirm or deny this statement.
Since the publication on January 19 on YouTube of a documentary presented by the opponent Alexeï Navalny in Russia, arrested two days earlier on his arrival in Russia, messages and videos relaying his message have indeed multiplied on the Internet.
In the original video, we see Mr. Navalny, facing the camera like a television news anchor, denouncing two hours during the corruption of the elites of his country, showing in particular the aerial images of a huge residence on the banks of the sea built according to him by the Russian secret services for the exclusive use of President Vladimir Putin.
In just a few days, this video has been viewed 60 million times around the world. After this publication, Navalny supporters called for demonstrations on January 23 in sixty-five Russian cities.
Millions of views on TikTok
Relayed on the Net, this video and these messages critical of Russian power received an echo on social networks, and in particular on TikTok, the application for sharing short videos popular with adolescents and young adults. Support videos grouped under the tag # свободунавальному (“# liberty forNavalny”) have garnered more than 120 million views.
But despite injunctions from the Russian telecommunications and media monitoring agency, many messages of support for Navalny remained viewable on Friday, including from a Russian Internet connection – just like Alexei Navalny’s documentary posted on YouTube.
We can thus see on TikTok two students taking the stage replacing the portrait of Vladmir Poutine enthroned in their class by that of Alexeï Navany, his main opponent. Other users use roundabout and creative ways, for example drawing the figure of a king in front of a pole dance pole – reference to Alexeï Navany’s video, which explains that such a pole would be installed in a shisha lounge of the supposed residence of Mr. Putin.
In another short video on TikTok, two people dressed as police officers tear off their acronyms in a solemn way, before admitting a few days after publication that it was a staging.
Robots and closed accounts
For their part, support committees for Alexeï Navalny and online media accuse the Russian secret services of wanting to drown their Instagram accounts under false registrations, as detailed Meduza, Russian-speaking media installed in Latvia.
They say they have seen the massive arrival of thousands of new subscribers. According to them, some publish messages that violate the moderation rules of the social network, with the aim, supposes Mikhail Klimarev, director of the NGO Internet Protection Society quoted by Meduza, to ban support committees from social networks. Faced with the influx of these new registrants with suspicious identities, some supporters have decided to lock their accounts, preventing any new registrations.
At the same time, since January 22, arrests of support for Mr. Navalny have increased. Without demobilizing the troops of the opponent to Vladimir Poutine. On January 21, from his cell, his press officer Kira Yarmysh, tweeted about the planned protests across Russia: “January 23 should be legendary”.