In Russia, the government intends to inject hundreds of millions of euros over several years in order to better control the Internet and to moralize content intended for young people. In the crosshairs were the protests in early 2021 against the executive, which once again demonstrated the power of social media and information literacy in the digital age.
In the Kremlin, they seem to have taken seriously the scale of the protests in favor of Alexei Navalny: on January 23, 2021, around 20,000 young Muscovites marched through the streets of the capital to demand the release of Vladimir Putin's sworn enemy.
An unprecedented mobilization that could not have taken place without social media, a field that the President of the Russian Federation no longer intends to leave to political opponents.
The strongman of the country has made no secret of his fear that teens will be confronted with harmful content online, with tech companies showing little responsibility in Russia as elsewhere.
Speaking a few days after the protests Putin said, “These platforms are, of course, first and foremost businesses, and what is the main interest of a business? To make a profit. It doesn't matter to them that this or that content harms the people it is intended for. After all, these companies are increasingly aiming at controlling people's consciousness.”
The Russian government therefore decided, on August 17, to inject ten billion rubles - more than one hundred and sixteen million euros - in order to disseminate “spiritual and moral” content on the web.
Two hundred projects in digital format will see the light of day, with one objective: “the formation of a civic conscience, moral and spiritual values among young people,” as explained by the Director General of the Institute for the Development of the Internet (Runet), Anton Kliuchkin.
The latter even promises, for next year, “a significant increase in the available means of more than fifteen billion rubles - about one hundred and eighty million euros - destined to grow further in the following years.”
Since 2020, Runet, founded in 2015, has been entrusted with content aimed at young people. As Kliuchkin explains, Gazprom-Media is funding part of this digital crusade alongside other important groups, including the First TV channel and the Yandex portal.
The projects run by Runet will then be evaluated by a committee chaired by the deputy director of the presidential administration, Sergei Kirienko, former head of government under the Eltsyn era, a man seen by many as a possible heir to Vladimir Putin.
One of the most active Internet producers in Russia, Anton Kalinkin, founder of Chill web-cinema, praised the project, recalling that “the media and web industry certainly needs this support from the state,” while recognizing that the bet is risky, because it remains “very difficult these days to convey an official discourse and a positive content to the younger generations.”
Challenge that the patriarch of Moscow, Kirill Gundjaev, wants to take up. The head of the Russian Autocephalous Church plays the whistleblower: “We see how many times our young people lose their reason, lose all real direction in life, which affects the whole of society in a destructive way, especially because of the content disseminated via the Internet. This is why we need to organize a flow of information that checks the ideas that spread, distinguishing the good from the dark.”
There is a certain lucidity in this observation. But it should not be forgotten that the Russians have remained masters in the art of disinformation and manipulation. The plan for the “spiritualization and moralization” of the Internet will mainly benefit the power in place.