Alternative Television: The role of YouTube in Russia's authoritarian elections

Sat9  Apr03:20pm(20 mins)
Umney Theatre


Anna Litvinenko


Previous studies on “youtubification” of political communication (May, 2010) have largely focused on democratic contexts. This study aims at exploring the role of the global video-sharing platform in non-democratic political communication, using the example of the Russian presidential election of 2018. It draws on the qualitative content analysis of 169 political videos collected from the “Popular” section of Russian YouTube during the last 2 months of the presidential campaign. The results show a significant difference in the roles elite and non-elite actors play in political communication on YouTube during elections, compared to democratic contexts. It was non-systemic opposition as well as non-institutional actors and YouTube only media that dominated the discourse of the most popular videos during the presidential election in Russia. Pro-state actors strove to co-opt the platform, publishing videos made in amateur and semi-professional styles that imitated user-generated content, however they did not experience the same success as alternative sources. Drawing on the findings, I discuss the risks and benefits of YouTube publics for the Russian authoritarian regime and the role of social media platforms in consultative authoritarianism.

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