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Willful Disbelief: Russia's Internet Crackdown and the Shaping of Public Opinion

The Russia-Ukraine conflict is hyper-visible on social media around the world. But inside Russia, censorship and blackouts create a distorted picture of events.

Technology has played a major role in the International reaction to the ongoing Russian war on Ukraine. Brock Pierce, chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation, and war reporter Hollie McKay, currently reporting on the war from Kiev, joined Roundtable to discuss the war, technology and international solidarity in the age of Web3.

In this segment, the panel discusses how information plays a role in the ongoing conflict.

Despite the close ties between Russia and Ukraine, McKay says, state media continues to convince Russians that the war isn’t even happening.

“I hear this all the time from Ukrainians who tell their relatives about what is happening,” McKay recounted. “I met a man a couple of days ago who was shot in the hand, as he was trying to leave, and he was sending family in Russia, pictures of his bullet wounds, and they didn't believe him, what are you talking about? There's no war there.”

McKay notes that that level of disinformation, in a world characterized by information and connectivity, speaks to the level of censorship in Russia today.

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“We know that Russia is very controlled media wise. It's very censored,” McKay said. “But even in this day and age, you would think people have access to be able to see things on Instagram or TikTok. But there's just such a willing disbelief.”

Pierce notes that the United States is also currently censoring communication about the war.

“Reddit chose to censor, you know, anything coming from Russian media. As an independent thinker, I want as many data points as possible so that I can attempt to form a conclusion around what is truth,” Pierce said. “I want to hear what the news is in Russia. I'm certainly not going to take it as fact, but I like to understand the different narratives, because it gives me another perspective from which to form opinion.”

Watch the full discussion below:

Roundtable Guests

Brock Pierce, Chairman, the Bitcoin Foundation

Hollie McKay, War reporter and author of Only Cry for the Living