Head of the Organising Committee
Sanna Turoma
sanna.turoma [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Coordinator
Kaarina Aitamurto
kaarina.aitamurto [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Secretary
Maarit Elo-Valente
maarit.elo-valente [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Intern
Miikka Piiroinen
miikka.piiroinen [at] helsinki.fi

Conference e-mail:
fcree-aleksconf [at] helsinki.fi

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki
phone +358-(0)50-3565 802

aleksanteri [at] helsinki.fi


Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Joanna Szostek (UCL-SSEES, UK)

Rolf Fredheim (University of Cambridge, UK)

Gernot Howanitz (University of Passau, Germany)

Panel abstract: Russians and Online News: Trolls, Choices and Editorial Change

In this panel we consider how Russians engage with and create online news content. In the context of tensions with the West, Russia's leadership has intensified efforts to control and direct the political narratives which circulate on the internet, both domestically and internationally. Our papers discuss important questions arising from this trend. Specifically, we investigate (1) how Russian 'trolling' affects debate on international news sources; (2) how Russian students' views of the West correspond to their news media choices; (3) what effect imposing a 'loyal editor has on constricting expression in online news outlets; and (4) how internet and television audiences in Russia have come to be seen as distinct social classes.

In December 2011 the pro-Putin youth group Nashi led a botched internet campaign to create the impression that Putin was popular on the internet. Since then, much has changed in the Kremlin's internet policy. A series of popular reports on 'troll-factories' run out of St Petersburg outline how the online campaign has become a full-blown information war, with organised attempts to influence not only Russian but Western opinion through comments on foreign news reports about Russia and Ukraine. Gernot Howanitz (University of Passau) will explore how 'Putin's cyber-warriors' attempt to shape the international debate about Russia and Ukraine in German newspapers.

While many people in Russia still remain reliant for news on state-controlled television, over half the population now has the option – if they wish to use it – to look beyond the state's narrative of events by turning to online sources. This is particularly true of the younger generation. Joanna Szostek (University College London) will present research into the news choices of students at a leading Russian university. Drawing on a survey and interviews, her paper will demonstrate the association between the students' exposure to state-controlled media and their degree of agreement with the state's anti-Western claims.

In the wake of the Crimean referendum the two most popular Russian online news outlets - Gazeta and Lenta.ru - had 'loyal' editors imposed upon them, expanding a practice common in print and television media to the online sphere. Media management is conducted by proxy of institutions or actors loyal to the Kremlin; it is assumed that this control constricts editorial freedom. The editorial changes in 2013 present an opportunity for a before and after analysis: using quantitative evidence, and controlling for the content published in consistently state-controlled outlets, Rolf Fredheim (University of Cambridge) will identify which aspects of Gazeta.ru's output were the most impacted by the change.