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Turning the Virtual Tables: Government Strategies for Addressing Online Opposition with an Application to Russia

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We introduce a novel classification of strategies employed by autocrats to combat online opposition generally, and opposition on social media in particular. Our classification distinguishes both online from offline responses and censorship from engaging in opinion formation. For each of the three options—offline action, technical restrictions on access to content, and online engagement—we provide a detailed account for the evolution of Russian government strategy since 2000. To illustrate the feasibility of researching online engagement, we construct and assess tools for detecting the activity of political "bots," or algorithmically controlled accounts, on Russian political Twitter, and test these methods on a large dataset of politically relevant Twitter data from Russia gathered over a year and a half.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 April 2018

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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