In October 2017, non-governmental organization “Internews Ukraine” conducted an expert survey titled Regulation of the Internet and Digital Rights in Ukraine. The survey aimed to measure the opinion in the expert community regarding the government’s policy to Internet governance and digital rights of users.
The results of the survey have shown that the expert community does not take a definite position on evaluating the President’s ‘sanction’ Decree #133/2017. According to the Decree, signed on May 17, 2017, mobile operators and Internet providers limited access to a number of Russian websites (VK.com, Yandex.ru, OK.ru, Mail.ru) in Ukraine. 48.3% of the respondents think of this decision ‘extremely positively’ or ‘more positively’, whereas 40.2% evaluate it ‘extremely negatively’ or ‘more negatively’.
The majority of the respondents (58.9%) think that the digital rights of users were infringed with signing of the Decree #133/2017. At the same time, only 40.2% of the respondents identified that their personal rights as users were also violated.
Was the President’s Decree strategically right or wrong decision? The majority of the respondents (56.2%) think that limiting access to Russian Internet resources was a strategically right decision of the government. However, almost one third (26.8%) think that this decision was strategically wrong.
The absolute majority of the respondents (83%) expect that Ukrainian users will use the above mentioned Russian Internet resources less in the future. At the same time, only 41% of the respondents evaluated the President’s Decree as effective.
The question of the ability of the Decree to counter Russian influence and propaganda was controversial for the experts – 57.1% think of the Decree rather as ineffective method to counter propaganda.
Meanwhile, there is less propaganda in Ukraine – say 41.1% of the respondents, and about the same number of respondents, or 37.5%, disagree with this statement. Another 21.4% could not come up with an answer.
The results of the survey also evidenced that the respondents are mostly aware about the most important draft laws in the sphere of Internet governance. In particular, 87.5% of the respondents have heard about or know the content of draft law #2126a on cyber security in Ukraine. At the same time, Ukrainian government needs to more actively involve the representatives of civil society into policy development – as 65.2% think that the authorities do not sufficiently involve non-governmental experts to developing Internet governance policy.
Key results of the survey:
- There is no unified position on blocking of Russian Internet resources
When asked to evaluate the decision of the President of Ukraine to sign Decree #133/2017, which led to blocking of a number of Russian websites, experts had different opinions. 31.3% think of this step by the authorities ‘more positively’, and 17% – ‘extremely positively’. While 28.6% evaluated this step ‘more negatively’, and 11.6% ‘extremely negatively’. The remaining respondents, or 11.6% answered ‘neutrally’.
- The majority of experts think the users’ rights in Ukraine were infringed by signing Decree #133/2017
58.9% of the respondents said that digital rights of users in Ukraine were violated with signing President’s Decree #133/2017 which led to limiting access to a number of Russian websites. 19.6% said that rights were not infringed, whereas 21.4% could not give a clear answer (‘hard to say’).
- More than half of the respondents did not personally experience the users’ rights infringement
When asked if their personal rights as users were infringed by signing Decree #133/2017, 40.2% answered positively. At the same time, 52.7% stated the opposite – that their personal rights were not violated. Another 7.1% were not sure about the answer.
- A slight majority evaluated Decree #133/2017 as a strategically right decision
A slight majority of the respondents (56.2%) said that the decision of the President of Ukraine to limit access to a number of Russian website was ‘strategically right’, whereas 26.8% said that this decision was ‘strategically wrong’. 17% of the respondents chose ‘hard to say’ as their answer.
- Decree #133/2017 seen rather as ineffective
The respondents were not unanimous in their evaluation of the effectiveness of Decree #133/2017. They were asked to rate it on the scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is ‘absolutely ineffective’, and 10 – ‘very effective’. 59% evaluated the effectiveness of the Decree with answers ranging between 1 and 5, which means they tend to view the Decree as ineffective. Whereas 41% rated it between 6 and 10, which means they tend to consider the Decree effective. Rates 3 (15.2%), 4 (16.1%), and 6,8 (each 13.4%) received the most votes.
- Ukrainians will use Russian services less
The majority of the respondents (83%) think that in the future Ukrainians are likely to use Russian Internet resources covered by Decree #133/2017 less. The minority (10.7%) said that users will likely not use these websites less, and 6.3% respondents indicated it was ‘hard to say’.
- Countering Russian influence and propaganda – rather, ineffective
When asked to evaluate the Decree #133/2017 in terms of its ability to counter Russian influence and propaganda, the respondents did not produce a unanimous opinion either. They were offered to rate it on the scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is ‘absolutely ineffective’ and 10 – ‘very effective’. 57.1% rated the ability to counter propaganda between 1 and 5, which means they tend to view the Decree as ineffective. Whereas the answers of 42.9% of respondents were between 6 and 10, which means they tend to consider the Decree effective. The most votes were cast for numbers 7 (18.2%) and 4 (14.3%).
- Complicated question: did the scope of Russian propaganda in Ukraine decrease?
41.1% of the respondents said that with signing Decree #133/2017 the scope of Russian propaganda in Ukrainian media space most likely decreased. 37,5% indicated that it most likely remained the same. For 21.4% of the respondents, it was hard to answer this question.
- Tough choice: the value of human rights prevails
We asked a complicated dichotomous question about the choice between the value of human rights and security in the time of conflict. 41.1% responded that human rights and freedoms was a priority, whereas 34.8% said that state security and territorial integrity was a priority. Almost every fourth respondent (24.1%) could not choose an answer.
- Respondents are aware of draft law on cybersecurity #2126a
When asked whether they heard about passing the draft law #2126 on cybersecurity in Ukraine, 48.2% of the respondents said that had heard about, but don’t know its contents. Another 39.3% have heard about it and known the contents of the draft law. And only 12.5% have not heard about this draft law until now.
- The government does not involve civil society enough into development of policy on cybersecurity.
65.2% of the respondents said that the government does not sufficiently involve experts on cyber security, human rights activists, researchers, and the IT community into development of policy on cybersecurity. Only 1.8% of the respondents think that civil society is sufficiently involved. Almost one third of the respondents (33%) answered that it was hard for them to say.
To conduct the survey, 112 respondents from expert community were surveyed by representatives of NGO “Internews Ukraine” between October 25 and October 31, 2017.
The target audience of the survey includes respondents from three key groups: experts on Internet technology and Internet governance, human rights activists, and representatives of media community (media experts, editors, and journalists of Ukrainian national and local media).
The questionnaire included 15 questions. 11 of them were closed topic-specific questions, three aimed to identify a respondent, and one offered to agree to processing of personal data of respondents. There were three types of tasks in the questionnaire: a) multiple choice questions; b) questions asking to provide rating from 1 to 10; and c) open questions to identify the respondent.
To carry out the survey, the project’s team prepared a database of respondents, which included contacts of 200 experts from all three target groups. The questions in the questionnaire were worded by NGO Internews Ukraine team with the participation of a sociologist consultant.
The questionnaire was prepared based on GoogleForm and published online – https://goo.gl/forms/jnsh76rcvrvOoiwF3. Respondents received the link to the questionnaire on their email or via other communication channels directly from representatives of NGO “Internews Ukraine”. The link to the questionnaire was not published on open resources.
Contact person: Vitalii Moroz, Head of New Media at NGO Internews Ukraine, +38063 700 22 66, firstname.lastname@example.org
The survey was conducted within the project ‘Protecting Internet Freedom in Ukraine’, implemented by NGO “Internews Ukraine” with the support of Counterpart International.
Read also how the Internet and the digital rights of users are regulated in Ukraine. An analysis of legislation