How Russians cope with censorship in times of war: Three questions to a DW survey expert | | DW | 19.10.2022
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How Russians cope with censorship in times of war: Three questions to a DW survey expert

How can Russians stay informed when many international news websites are blocked and Russian media shut down? Anja Terveen, Customer Experience Manager at DW recently conducted a survey and we asked about the results.

DW: How are people in Russia coping with blocked websites and content? 

Anja Terveen: When the war started in February 2022, usage on increased by 74% compared to the previous months. More blocking mechanisms were put in place, so the access rates fell. This meant that we could no longer say with certainty what the actual access figures were, but the survey results made it clear that DW users in Russia were actively looking for information on the Ukraine war.  

Many people in Russia are extremely skilled and creative in accessing blocked online content and information sources like DW. They access using circumvention software like Psiphon or VPN (Virtual Private Network). But not all channels are blocked, and information is still flowing, for example, via YouTube and Telegram. 

Infografik DW usage in Russia EN

DW usage in Russia with and without VPN

How is DW content generally seen in Russia?  

We couldn’t conduct a representative survey in Russia given the current conditions, so we asked DW users who we know regularly access DW content, and the results at least provide a glimpse of the mood in Russia.  

As we expected, users in Russia overall rated DW content positively. DW is seen to be credible and balanced, and these results at least give insight into the general sentiment in Russia. The news content is judged to be particularly current and of a high journalistic standard.  

In individual cases, users made clear that they believed the Russian narrative and accused DW of being a propaganda medium. Most of those surveyed, however, expressed their gratitude to DW for its critical and comprehensive reporting.  

What additional insights did you gain from the responses?? 

When we launched the survey, we were very curious to see what the response rate would be: Does our email with the questionnaire get through? Are the users even willing to participate in a DW survey? The survey is very important because our users can provide us with valuable insights, especially in times of crisis.  

We found that the users willingly participated and answered our questions. It is very reassuring to see that users can access DW services despite internet blockades. Those surveyed were consciously using circumvention software and did not feel intimidated in their search for information. They were using many bypassing options and over 80% were prepared to continue using bypass software in the future. 

Especially in censored markets, DW users have to find their own way to access the information we provide. The majority of the Russian DW users we surveyed expressed a great desire to access independent, free information.   

Anja Terveen is a Customer Experience Manager at DW’s Market and Audience Insights (MAI). Through surveys with DW users, she provides valuable insights that help improve DW's journalistic products. 

The survey on the online behavior of Russians in accessing information during the war in Ukraine was conducted in April 2022. Prevailing conditions did not allow for a representative survey in Russia. As a result, DW asked 552 users who regularly access DW content and whom we could reach via email. This was the best possible group for us to survey because their contact data was available in the customer database managed by the Customer Experience department. 


Edited by Heidi Walsh 

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