Russian digital authoritarianism at the time of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly accelerated the use of digital surveillance technologies in Russia which had been planned earlier but tested only on a limited scale. Their increased use by the state will not end with the pandemic, but will determine the “new normal” where civil liberties are restricted more than ever before.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is a classic example of an extraordinary situation which adds to the discussion regarding the ideal balance between public security and civil liberties. As expected, in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, security has been treated as a pretext to expand the state’s authority at the cost of individuals’ rights. The pandemic has been a catalyst which accelerates and expands implementation of advanced digital technologies that are aimed to tighten the authoritarian hold over society. The authorities use them to monitor the citizens, manipulate behaviour, coerce people into political loyalty and to repress the opposition.

September 7, 2020 - Maria Domańska