“I’m an American!” a young Russian under the username Neurolera exclaims in English on the popular video-sharing app TikTok as she explains how to impersonate a tourist to avoid arrest at a street demonstration.
Her video – published ahead of rallies planned in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny – has been viewed more than 500,000 times while videos demanding Navalny’s release garnered hundreds of millions of views on the platform.
In Russia, where state-controlled media outlets co-exist in stark contrast with online platforms popular among the opposition, authorities have ramped up efforts to contain and even replace sites that are seen as a threat.
YouTube has become the primary source of news for many young Russians. The videos of web star Yuri Dud, known for his interviews with celebrities, or anti-graft campaigner Navalny are enjoying more and more success.
Soon after Navalny’s arrest, his team published a two-hour investigation into a lavish palace on the Black Sea allegedly belonging to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The video has been viewed more than 60 million times on YouTube since its publication on Tuesday.