TIME Censorship

Russia’s Youth Want Internet Freedom, Widening ‘Censorship Gap’

A Russian fan with her face painted with the Russian flag watches the men's quarter-finals ice hockey game between Russia and Finland. Russia was eliminated from the men's ice hockey competition at the Sochi Games on Wednesday following a 3-1 quarter-final loss to Finland.
A Russian fan with her face painted with the Russian flag watches the men's quarter-finals ice hockey game between Russia and Finland. Russia was eliminated from the men's ice hockey competition at the Sochi Games on Wednesday following a 3-1 quarter-final loss to Finland. Eric Gaillard—Reuters

Pew study reveals widening chasm between old and young Russians on the question of how important it is for their country to have an uncensored Internet. Eight in ten Russian adults under 30 want freedom online

The Russia of President Vladimir Putin has not cultivated a reputation as a bastion of freedom, but a Pew survey out Wednesday suggests younger Russians may be more liberty-loving than the stereotype suggests — at least when it comes to the internet.

In the Pew Research Center’s study titled “Emerging and Developing Nations Want Freedom on the Internet,” surveyors found a wide chasm—the widest of all countries surveyed—between how much old and young Russians care about Internet freedom.

Among Russians as a whole, just 63% say it is important that people have access to the Internet free from government censorship. Delving deeper into the numbers, however, reveals a stark generational divide. Among Russians 18 to 29 years old, eight in ten say an uncensored Internet is important to them, a position taken by 72% of Russians 30 to 49 but only 44% of Russians over 50.

The gap on that question between the oldest and youngest Russians—a difference of 36%—is the widest of any country surveyed. The country also had one of the highest shares of people—15%— saying Internet freedom is not at all important to them.

Granted, this is just a single metric and part of the discrepancy may stem simply from older Russians being less interested in the Internet in general than the generations coming after them, or even a lingering Cold War mindset. But the wide disparity nonetheless reveals a divide in Russian society. The “censorship gap,” if you will, may signal a coming shift in Russian public opinion over the longer term, as the old guard naturally gives way to the new.

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