The Kremlin’s Wars on the Internet
The Red Web may appear to be a niche book at first. Despite the appealing name, it surely doesn´t seem to tackle an issue on the radar of the typical foreign affairs enthusiast. In the public discourse, Internet policy and privacy issues have always had an intrinsically Western spin to it, and for apparently good (albeit superficial) reasons: censorship and data retention have a far greater shock value if practiced by liberal-oriented governments, while being a no-brainer for autocratic regimes such as China and Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, the Russian-speaking portion of the web is so self-contained, and the Kremlin´s approach to censorship and repression so unique, that the book manages to create a compelling narrative of the initial rise of Internet activism in the 1990s all the way through the opposition´s effort to create platforms of resistance – transforming the digital space in the primary battleground for the heart and minds of Russin citizens. The ramifications of this fight aren´t just a matter of internal politics though: it poses also questions on the accountability of Big Tech to its users, on the ambiguous fallout of Edward Snowden´s revelations and on the role governments should play in internet governance. Borogan and Soldatov´s achievement is remarkable, making this a must-read for people not only interested in Russian affairs, but internet policy too.