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Resisting The Rise Of Digital Dictatorship In Eastern Europe And Central Asia

From internet shutdowns in Azerbaijan and Armenia, to Putin’s intensifying online censorship, digital dictatorship is tightening its grip across Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Launching today, Digital dictatorship: authoritarian tactics and resistance in Eastern Europe and Central Asia unpacks the intersecting tools and techniques of oppression that furnish digital dictators’ toolboxes all across the region, and explores techniques for resistance. Read the full report and regional snapshot.

“The digital dictator’s arsenal is stocked with tactics that systematically chip away at freedom of expression, access to information, and privacy online,” said Anastasiya Zhyrmont, Regional Outreach Coordinator - Eastern Europe & Central Asia at Access Now. “The methodical expansion of this online authoritarianism is being met with resistance, and people across Eastern Europe and Central Asia are fending off oppression, and planting the seeds of democracy — we hope Digital dictatorship: authoritarian tactics and resistance in Eastern Europe and Central Asia supports them in this journey.”

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The more people use online spaces to exercise their democratic rights, the bigger a threat the internet becomes to authoritarian regimes. As a reaction, leaders across the region are implementing tools to control and intimidate. This new report unpacks digital scenarios in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, and dives into:

  • Online censorship: restrictions of speech, and blocking of independent media and NGOs;
  • Internet shutdowns: deliberate network disruptions and interference, and blocking of communications platforms;
  • Disinformation and hate speech: state-sponsored propaganda and disinformation campaigns, failure to address hate speech, and inciting hatred; and
  • Surveillance: mass and targeted surveillance, including using spyware against critics, collection and retention of personal data, and biometric surveillance.

Yet, with oppression comes resistance, and this new report provides practical actions for people in the region ranging from tightening security on browsers and increasing awareness of digital safety, to using technology for positive change.

“We need leaders and changemakers in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and the world over, to act now to raze the structures that embolden digital authoritarianism,” said Natalia Krapiva, Tech Legal Counsel at Access Now. “Activists, governments, and tech companies all have a role to play in the resistance, and we must work together to secure a safe, accessible, and free digital future for all.”

The Digital dictatorship report includes recommendations for international foundations, donors, and development agencies; states; the private sector; investors; and civil society, including:

  • Provide funding, support, and capacity-building opportunities to actors combating digital authoritarianism;
  • Cooperate and consult with civil society to address digital authoritarianism and shrinking civic space; and
  • Stop providing tools, financing, or services to actors with a history of human rights violations.

The report is a joint initiative between Access Now and Human Constanta, in cooperation with the Media Legal Centre, and the Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law.

Read the full report and regional snapshot.

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