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Mapping Russian Twitter

The Berkman Center is pleased to announce the next publication in its series of papers on the Russian Internet:

“Mapping Russian Twitter”
By John Kelly, Vladimir Barash, Karina Alexanyan, Bruce Etling, Robert Faris, Urs Gasser, and John Palfrey

Using methods similar to our studies of the Persian, Arabic and Russian blogospheres, this paper shares the results of a large-scale social network analysis of Russian Twitter, with a focus on political users. This work was made possible thanks to the generous support of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Drawing from a corpus of over 50 Million Russian language tweets collected between March 2010 and March 2011, the research team created a network map of 10,285 users comprising the ‘discussion core’ of Russian Twitter, and clustered them based on a combination of network features. The resulting segmentation revealed key online constituencies active in Russian Twitter. The major topical groupings in Russian Twitter include: Political, Instrumental, CIS Regional, Technology, and Music. There are also several clusters centered on Russian regions, which is significant given the limited reach of the Internet in the regions outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Similar to the Russian blogosphere, the Twitter network includes a democratic opposition cluster associated with Gary Kasparov and the opposition Solidarity movement. In other respects the political clusters identified in blogs and Twitter networks display interesting variation. Nationalists, who are very active in Russian blogs, do not appear to be organized in Russian Twitter (at least as of March 2011). Conversely, pro-Putin youth groups like the Young Guards and Nashi, and elected officials allied with them, have a distinct Twitter footprint.

This is the third in a series of papers that will be released over the coming months. Previous research on the Russian Internet includes our study of the Russian blogosphere, “Public Discourse in the Russian Blogosphere: Mapping RuNet Politics and Mobilization” and “Exploring Russian Cyberspace: Digitally-Mediated Collective Action and the Networked Public Sphere.” An overview of past and upcoming publications can be found here: For further information about the Berkman Center’s project on the Impact of the Internet on Russian Politics, Media, and Society please visit:

As always, we welcome your feedback.

Posted in blogging, Publications, Russia, Twitter. Comments Off on Mapping Russian Twitter

Exploring Russian Cyberspace: New Internet and Democracy Publication (and more to come!)

As you’ve likely discovered from personal experience, timing is everything. And so the Internet & Democracy team is especially pleased to announce that just in time for this Sunday’s Russian presidential election, Karina Alexanyan, Vladimir Barash, Robert Faris, Urs Gasser, John Kelly, John Palfrey, Hal Roberts, and I are releasing a new paper that assesses the relationship between the Russian Internet and Russian political and social life: “Exploring Russian Cyberspace: Digitally-Mediated Collective Action and the Networked Public Sphere.” This work was made possible thanks to the generous support of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

In English and in Russian (thanks to the translation expertise of Gregory Asmolov), here is the full abstract for the paper:


This paper summarizes the major findings of a three-year research project to investigate the Internet’s impact on Russian politics, media and society. We employed multiple methods to study online activity: the mapping and study of the structure, communities and content of the blogosphere; an analogous mapping and study of Twitter; content analysis of different media sources using automated and human-based evaluation approaches; and a survey of bloggers; augmented by infra- structure mapping, interviews and background research. We find the emergence of a vibrant and diverse networked public sphere that constitutes an independent alternative to the more tightly controlled offline media and political space, as well as the growing use of digital platforms in social mobilization and civic action. Despite various indirect efforts to shape cyberspace into an environment that is friendlier towards the government, we find that the Russian Internet remains generally open and free, although the current degree of Internet freedom is in no way a prediction of the future of this contested space.



В данной статье представлены основные результаты трехлетнего проекта, целью которого было изучить влияние Интернета на российскую политику, средства массовой информации и общество. Для исследования общения и деятельности пользователей интернета мы использовали различные методы: отображение и исследование структуры, сообществ и содержания блогосферы и контента в Твиттере; опрос блогеров, контент-анализ различных средств массовой информации: как с помощью автоматизированных методов, так и с помощью экспертов.

Мы открыли существование живого и чрезвычайно разнообразного публичного пространства, которое представляет собой альтернативу более контролируемым официальным средствам массовой информации. Мы считаем возможным говорить об электронных платформах, на основе которых происходит социальная мобилизация гражданских действий. Несмотря на различные попытки превратить кибер-пространство в пространство, поддерживающее правительство, наше исследование показывает, что Российский Интернет все еще остается свободным и открытым. Тем не менее, несмотря на существующую свободу Рунета, очень сложно делать какие-то предсказания относительно его будущего.


Please note that we are working to provide a full translation in the future.
In the meantime, we welcome your comments at the Internet & Democracy Blog.

If we’ve whetted your appetite for more research on all things related to the role of the Internet in Russian society, we welcome you to take a fresh look at our October 2010 Russian blog paper, Public Discourse in the Russian Blogosphere: Mapping RuNet Politics and Mobilization.

Also, please keep an eye on our paper series page for future publications over the coming months, and check out the same site for a short description of each paper we’re planning to release.


Posted in blogging, Elections, Free Speech, I&D Project, Media Cloud, Organizing, Russia. Comments Off on Exploring Russian Cyberspace: New Internet and Democracy Publication (and more to come!)

The Global Voices Footprint

Full image available (here)

Here’s another cool blog map from our friend and research partner John Kelly (with whom we’ve studied the Persian, Arabic and Russian blogospheres–but this map is part of his work at Morningside Analytics). The above image is a visualization of bloggers that link to Global Voices created for GV’s leadership, including friends Ivan Sigal, Ethan Zuckerman and Rebecca MacKinnon.

I was interested to read that he thinks GV has an especially big role in online discourse in, and about, the Arab world. This was my intuition as well from the research we’ve done with John over the years, but I’ve never gotten around to asking him if that was actually the case. As John writes:

If we include English language blogs, there are at least three additional clusters that focus on the Arab world. It is fair to say that while GV has a hand in conversations around the globe, it plays an especially strong role connecting Arab discourse.

I am also interested to learn more about Russian bloggers linking to GV. It appears that this group is a bit less deeply enmeshed in the larger conversation, given their position at the bottom of the map. I’m also curious about the Echo Mosckvyi (Echo of Moscow) cluster. This is important because, as Ethan often says, citizen media punch above their weight when they are linked to, interviewed and their messages rebroadcast through traditional electronic media. The fact that there is a cluster of bloggers from an important outlet like Echo Moskvyi linking to GV may say a lot about their influence in Russia, which might not be so obvious at first glance. (A while back, David Remnick did a great New Yorker piece on the station if you want to learn more.)

While I’m excited to see this research on GV, I have to say I’m even more excited to see that John has finally started a blog, which promises to be a must read.

Posted in blogging, Citizen Journalism, Middle East, Russia. Comments Off on The Global Voices Footprint

Charges Dropped Against Russian Blogger

The opposition Web site Other Russia reports that the case against Russian blogger Dmitri Solovyov has been closed due to a lack of evidence. Solovyov is a blogger with the opposition youth movement Oborona. According to Radio Free Europe Solovyov was charged under Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code with “inciting hatred and humiliating the human dignity of individual social groups” for his criticism the police and the Federal Security Service, or FSB, who he said killed children and would not be able to break up the Oborona movement. Two groups of linguists determined that he did not use extremist language in his blog posts, which apparently led to the closure of the case.

According to the Oborona movement’s blog (my quick translation):

This idiotic and absurd affair dragged on for nearly a year and half, but in the end common sense prevailed – with Dmitri acquitted and everything that was seized during [police] searches returned.

Posted in blogging, Russia. Comments Off on Charges Dropped Against Russian Blogger

China and Iran Lead Way in Detention of Journalists

According to a new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, China and Iran are the leading jailers of journalists in the world, with those two states accounting for more than a third of all journalists held behind bars today. Increased arrests by Iran following post-election protests helped make 2009 even worse than 2008, with 11 more arrested worldwide this year than last. In its annual census, the CPJ also found that freelancers (who often write online) are more likely to be jailed than their counterparts at traditional news outlets. Last year was the first time ever that online journalists were more likely to be jailed than traditional ones.

If Iran had thrown just one more journalist in jail on December 1, it would have tied China (which has 24 journalists behind bars), as the leading jailer, a title China has held for the last 11 years. As Joel Simon writes in Slate, as opposed to 10 years ago when most of those Chinese journalists wrote for traditional media outlets, today they are primarily online authors, and this impacts how they are handled by the government:

[O]nline journalists can’t be fired, blacklisted, or, in most cases, bought off precisely because most work independently. They don’t have employers who can be pressured. Chinese authorities have few options when it comes to reining in online critics—censor them, intimidate them, or throw them in jail. This explains why 18 of the 24 journalists imprisoned in China worked online.

In Iran, there’s a similar dynamic. The 23 reporters jailed there fall roughly into two camps—those who worked for print media outlets allied with opposition candidates and those who worked independently online.

Yandex on the Russian Blogosphere

The wildly popularly Russian search engine Yandex has released another useful report on the Russian blogosphere based on its search data. While it is nearly silent on methods, it is nonetheless helpful to have another data point out there on the Russian blogosphere, which we’ve also been digging into at the Berkman Center following our Iranian and Arabic blogosphere research. Yandex finds the following on the Russian blogosphere (pdf), as of spring 2009:

The ‘average’ Russian blogger is a 22 year old woman who lives in Moscow and posts on LiveInternet or (this is the first blogosphere we’ve looked at in detail where female bloggers are in the majority, and about 20% to 30% more females than we find in Middle Eastern blogospheres we’ve studied). Women write more often, and also comment more frequently on others’ blogs, than men in Russia.

LiveJournal, which we are focusing on at the moment, has the most active traditional bloggers in Russia, and this platform also hosts more men and older bloggers than the rest of the blogosphere. Seventy-six percent of active Russian blogs are hosted on just four blog services (LiveJournal,, and Liveinternet has the most blogs, but 96% have not been updated in the last three months.

ya_blogosphere_report_eng.pdf (page 3 of 9)

Russian bloggers are posting less often than in the past:

Active blogs (those with at least five entries and that have been
updated at least once in the past three months) continue to decrease –
currently totaling to 12 %. While two years ago every second blog was
getting regular updates, last year only one out of five blogs was regularly

Perhaps because they are to busy Twittering: Twitter has grown in popularity, as has the Jabber-based, but still there are only 7,000 Russian users according to Yandex. At 80%, its users post more frequently than any other traditional blog service, though.

London has the most active Russian bloggers outside of the former Soviet Union, followed by New York.

Unfortunately, the report doesn’t go into any topical or political issues that bloggers discuss, and they also recently decided to stop listing the most popular daily topics on their blog data site, perhaps to avoid the same fate as mainstream media in Russia. More Yandex research here (in English), although the Russian research page is much richer (I’ve got my eye on the Ukrainian blogosphere report next).

Posted in blogging, Russia. Comments Off on Yandex on the Russian Blogosphere

Azerbaijan Defends the Honor of Their Donkeys, Silences Critics

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Apparently, Azerbaijan’s leaders don’t have much of a sense of humor. Azeri bloggers created this satirical video to poke fun at the government for reportedly paying nearly $180,000 for, well, donkeys, including $18,500 for just one of the beasts. But, corruption is corruption, whether your talking about Boeing KC-767 refueling tankers or pack animals, and the government was not pleased. According to Global Voices, the two were arrested and charged with ‘hooliganism’ after they were attacked in a local restaurant and reported the incident to the police.

Unfortunately, Azerbaijan is one of those countries in the former Soviet region that doesn’t get much attention unless there’s a spat over pipelines for shipping gas and oil to Europe, and that is probably useful for the government in cases like this. Let’s hope enough bad press convinces the Azeri government to lighten up.

Posted in blogging, Free Speech. Comments Off on Azerbaijan Defends the Honor of Their Donkeys, Silences Critics

Russian Bloggers Prefer Beer Over Obama, But Respect His Mr. Miyagi Like Reflexes

By Karina Alexanyan

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Russian bloggers gave more attention to Obama’s trip to Moscow than Russian TV, but not much more. According to “Yandex blogs”, Obama’s visit to Moscow was not among the day’s top 3 blog topics, which instead include Google’s new operating system, juvenile justice in Russia and a subway machinist who fell off the train.

Obama’s visit appears at #11 in the “additional topics” column, which also contains references to the G8 summit in Italy, a Beer and Kvas festival, Newsweek’s list of top 10 books in the world, and the visit by Patriarch Cyril to the Ukraine.

A search among the posts of the top four bloggers in Russia found virtually no mention of Obama’s visit, although Live Journal blogger “drugoi”, whose photoblog is the most popular on RuNet, has a brief post on the superiority of White House press photography over that of the Kremlin.

A quick review of Russian blog posts that do mention Obama’s visit, about 550 posts over the last few days, finds a wide variety.

Many mention the visit in passing, as part of list of other relevant news events of the week (Michael Jackson’s funeral, the subway death, etc).

There is also a fair amount of political analysis, with varying degrees of detail, summarizing the key topics of discussion and main agreements. These contain opinions that range from a quite positive outlook on Russian/American relations, (similar to this news clip from Channel 1) to a less optimistic take on the productivity of the visit. Below is a snippet of loose translations:

– the real reason for Obama’s visit was to discuss Iran and the danger of the increasing accessibility of nuclear technology…

– The first visit of Obama to Moscow showed who is who in contemporary Russian-American relations. There is no rivalry between the Kremlin and the White house. Moscow is today a junior partner to Washington – albeit not a very reliable one. However, this doesn’t change the essence of the relationship. Its enough to review the main points of yesterdays meeting…

– I feel like Obama’s visit to Moscow is falling apart before my eyes…Even a month ago insiders circles there was much more optimism about the political results of this visit. Today – there isn’t. The focus on arms control and nonproliferation as the main reason doesn’t justify the trip. There is and should be forward movement on this, but too many big issues have been neglected…. (Ex, the fact that Hillary Clinton wasn’t there, the inadequacy of Obama’s visit with the opposition, etc.)

– I especially liked it when the emperor of the global empire explained…to the ex-emperor of the non global empire that ‘the time of empire and imperial politics has passed.’ That American’s are a people without complexes – that’s for sure. I wonder, what was Putin thinking at that moment? Something like: and when are you going to free your colonies?

Other posts are mainly humorous or tongue in cheek:

“During Obama’s visit to Moscow, not one fly was harmed…” (A reference to Obama killing a fly during a recent CNBC interview)

– Another wrote, “It’s a funny thing, as I hear about Obama’s visit to Moscow, I catch myself wanting to get a ticket or a pass to his show…”

– Finally, Russian blogger Merenzon suggests that the phonetic spelling of Medvedev’s name “(dih-MEE’-tree med-VYEH’-dyev),” which appeared in a AP article about Obama’s visit, be printed up on T-shirts.

Not a bad idea, given that most US commentators still get tripped up over Medve…dev…ev’s name.

Posted in blogging, Russia. Comments Off on Russian Bloggers Prefer Beer Over Obama, But Respect His Mr. Miyagi Like Reflexes

Internet and Democracy Releases Report on Arabic Blogosphere


After much work over the past year, the Internet and Democracy Project team is proud to officially announce today the release of our study on the Arabic blogosphere, a follow-up to last year’s I&D study on the shape of the Iranian blogosphere. Our research identified a base network of approximately 35,000 blogs, and aimed to generate a baseline for understanding the state of online discourse in the region. As in our previous work, we’ve worked with John Kelly to visualize the data on over 6,000 of the most connected blogs and had researchers read over 4,000 blogs to understand who the bloggers are and the issues they care about. We’re excited to report that there’s some intriguing findings on the state of the networked public sphere in the Middle East, some highlights include:

* The Demographics of Arab Bloggers: Demographic coding indicate that Arabic bloggers are predominately young and male. The highest proportion of women is found in the Egyptian youth sub-cluster, while the Maghreb/French Bridge and Syrian clusters have the highest concentration of men.

* The Makeup of the Arab Online Media Ecosystem: Bloggers link to Web 2.0 sites such as YouTube and Wikipedia (both English and Arabic versions) more than other sources of information and news available on the Internet. Al Jazeera is the top mainstream media source, followed by the BBC and Al Arabiya, while US-government funded media outlets like Radio Sawa and Al Hurra are linked to relatively infrequently.

* The Perception of the United States: The US is not a dominant political topic in Arabic blogs; neither are the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. However, when the US is discussed, it is nearly always in critical terms.

There’s much more here — our study revealed other interesting patterns in the online discussion around extremism, and the online presence of political opposition groups, including Kefaya (Enough) and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

You can get the complete study here. Also be sure to check out our event tomorrow at USIP where John Palfrey, John Kelly, Robert Faris and Bruce Etling will present the results and get reaction from a panel of experts and bloggers from the region. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Mapping Iran’s Blogosphere on Election Eve

By John Kelly and Bruce Etling


Based on our monitoring of the Iranian blogosphere on election eve, it looks like Mousavi has broader support in the online blog community than Ahmadinejad. (For a broader understanding of the different attentive clusters in Iran check out our new online interactive Iran blogosphere map). The below maps show who is linking to websites associated with the candidates. It’s pretty interesting to see the contrast between Ahmadinejad (, whose links are very concentrated in the Conservative Politics cluster, and Mousavi (, whose links come from all over the map, not just the reformist politics group.



We are particularly struck by how many links come from the poetry cluster, which rarely links to political sites. Also, Moussavi has even more links from the CyberShi’a than Ahmadinejad.

This online interest doesn’t necessarily translate to the offline world, but it may indicate a broader level of excitement about Mousavi in the electorate, particularly among those outside his expected base of supporters, which could ultimately lead to higher voter turn out for Mousavi.

As Hamid Tehrani wrote earlier this week, YouTube is being used a lot by Iranians in this election. Here is one of the YouTube videos most linked to by reformists.
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And here is the video most linked to by conservatives, which Hamid pointed to earlier in the week as an example of conservatives trying to discredit Khatami, who has supported Mousavi since he dropped out of the race himself.

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Iran experts caution against trying to predict election winners Iran (because we’ve been surprised before), and we’d caution against predicting a Mousavi win just on this analysis, but it is certainly interesting to see the larger level of online support for Mousavi on the eve of the election. We’ll have to leave it to the voters at this point.

Some additional data and analysis on Iran’s election eve blogosphere is posted on Morningside Analytics Shifting the Debate blog. You can also catch an interview and find all of Hamid Tehrani’s posts on the Internet and the Iranian election on the PBS Web site.

Check back here next week for the big release of our Arabic blogosphere paper and accompanying event at USIP.