Rashid Gabdulhakov | Digital Vigilantism in Russia: Mediated Visibility in the Context of Social Change and Social Harm

Rashid Gabdulhakov | Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus School of History Culture and Communication (ESHCC) Department of Media and Communication Supervisors: Dr Daniel Trottier and Prof. Susanne Janssen | 1 March 2017 – 31 March 2021 | gabdulhakov[at]eshcc.eur.nl

Digital Vigilantism in Russia: Mediated Visibility in the Context of Social Change and Social Harm[1]

[1] This work was supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)
[project number 276-45-004]

Brief research description:

As part of an international project, this research examines digital vigilance in the context of the Russian Federation with the aim of a nuanced representation of the phenomenon, including emergence and decay of cases, motives behind participation and its impact on targets, as well as the role of the state agents in mediated citizen-led justice. Given that the state is a traditional power monopolist and in the case of Russia is a media superpower with tight control over the public sphere, the research enquires how digital vigilantism practices manifest through state-citizen and citizen-to-citizen relations. This multi method project relies on qualitative content analysis of traditional media coverage of cases as well as content analysis of media products generated by vigilantes themselves. The research additionally relies on semi-structured and in-depth interviews with key stakeholders, including digital vigilantes and their targets, as well as policymakers, media professionals, NGO representative, academics, and law enforcement authorities. The core objective of this interdisciplinary research is to contribute to advancing theoretical boundaries of digital vigilantism as a platform for both social change and social harm.

In order to address a diverse set of nuances that inform digital vigilance in the Russian Federation, the following primary and supportive research questions will be addressed:

RQ: How are DV practices in Russia manifested through state-citizen and citizen-to-citizen relations?

  • SQ1: How is DV in Russia informed by historically-situated practices of outsourced, crowdsourced, and volunteered citizen-led justice, as well as denouncing, shaming, and moralizing of citizens by fellow citizens?
  • SQ2: How is DV framed and rendered meaningful by state-owned and independent Russian media?
  • SQ3: What are the drivers of emergence and decay of DV-themed initiatives in the Russian context?
  • SQ4: How are key aspects of DV (including shaming, moralizing, doxing, harassment, and embodied actions) utilized by DV participants?
  • SQ5: How is DV experienced by participants and targets in Russia?