Russian President Vladimir Putin has managed to control the message coming from most media outlets in his country. But he hasn't been so successful online, where many young Russians go to get their entertainment and news.

“Unlike their parents’ generation, they’re not turning on the state-run news every night to get their information. They’re digging through the internet,” says Sabra Ayres, a Moscow-based Los Angeles Times reporter who’s  written about this trend.

Opponents of Putin have tapped into young Russians' shifting media habits, turning to social media channels to disseminate their message.

In March, for example, opposition leader Alexei Navalny turned to YouTube to discuss alleged corruption within the Russian government. As of June 13,  the video has been viewed nearly 23 million times.

Thousands of young Russians took to the streets to protest these claims in March. They also showed up in large numbers on Monday, after Navalny called for anti-government, anti-corruption demonstrations across Russia.

Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested — including Navalny, who was jailed for 30 days for encouraging unlicensed protests. But Putin hasn’t been as successful at silencing his critics online, writes Ayres.

Here's an excerpt from Ayres' article, "Here's why Vladimir Putin should fear Russia's millennials: They bypass state-controlled media," below.

The Kremlin has responded with awkward attempts to quash youth involvement both in the streets and online.

Human Rights Watch said there has been an orchestrated government campaign to intimidate Russian students and young adults planning to participate, according to a recent statement from the organization.

“Rather than responding to legitimate public demands for accountable government, the Russian authorities are trying to quash the voices of the next generation of voters,” Hugh Williamson, the Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

The Duma, Russia’s parliament, has introduced bills that would restrict the use of social media for users under 14 and ban the use of virtual private networks, which can circumvent blocked websites. Another law would require online messaging services to register with the Russian authorities, potentially exposing their subscribers’ details to government sources.

(Excerpted with permission from the LA Times. Read the full story here.)

From PRI's The World ©2017 PRI