In April and May 2018 NGO “Internews Ukraine” carried out a survey of 120 respondents titled “Internet Freedom and Internet Regulations in Ukraine. Expert survey.” The goal of the survey was to obtain expert opinion on government policies in Internet governance, in particular regarding Internet regulation since the Presidential Decree #133/2017 on sanctions against certain Russian companies was signed on May 15, 2017.
Representatives of NGO “Internews Ukraine” surveyed 120 respondents who belonged to identified target groups between April 8 and May 18, 2018. The target audience of the survey includes respondents that represent IT industry, human rights advocates, and media community (journalists and editors of national or regional media). The survey questions can be accessed: http://bit.ly/sampleQUA
Key Findings of the Survey
1. Over half of the experts indicated that the state of Internet freedom in Ukraine got worse
When asked to evaluate the dynamics of the state of Internet freedom in Ukraine in 2017 compared to the previous year, 46.7% of the respondents said that the situation got ‘somewhat worse’, and another 8.3% said that it got ‘considerably worse.’ At the same time, 40.8% said that the situation ‘didn’t change.’ And for the remaining 4.1%, it improved.
2. Blocking access to social networks and dangerous legislative initiatives – key cases of violating Internet freedom
When asked if they knew about any cases of violating Internet freedom and when given the possibility to choose several answers, 70% of the respondents mentioned blocking access to social networks, and another 67.5% indicated legislative initiatives that restrict Internet freedom. 49.2% mentioned pro-government manipulations on social networks, and 48.3% – pressure on IT companies and Internet providers.
3. Most respondents acknowledge the right of the state to certain limitations of Internet freedom
When asked whether certain limitations of Internet freedom to counter threats to national security are possible, 64.2% of the respondents gave a positive answer. At the same time, 20% of the respondents said that there should be no restrictions under any circumstances. 15.8% of the respondents found this question hard to answer.
4. Is the Internet being excessively regulated – no definite answer
When asked if Ukrainian government is taking attempts to excessively regulate the Internet in Ukraine, the expert opinions divided: 36.7% think that there are rather no such attempts, and 35.8% say that such attempts rather exist. 15.8% of the respondents are convinced that there is excessive regulation, and 10% object this statement.
5. Government rather ignore International standards of internet-governance
44.2% of the respondents are convinced that Ukrainian government rather does not follow the international standards of internet-governance in Internet regulation, whereas 28.3% are of the opposite opinion. Almost one third (27.5%) find it hard to answer this question.
6. 50% evaluate the blocking of Russian Internet resources positively
When evaluating the Presidential Decree #133/2017 on limiting access to certain Russian websites (VK.com, Yandex.ru, OK.ru, Mail.ru), 50% of the respondents answered ‘positively’ or ‘rather positively,’ while 42.5% said they evaluated it ‘negatively’ or ‘rather negatively.’ 7.5% of the respondents said the question was hard for them to answer.
7. 54,2% of the respondents say that the decision on blocking was rather ineffective
There is no unified answer to the question asking to evaluated the effectiveness of the Decree #133/2017. The respondents were asked to rate it on the scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is ‘not effective at all’, and 10 is ‘very effective.’ 54.2% evaluated the Decree on the scale between 1 and 5, which means they tend to view the Decree as rather ineffective. At the same time, 45.8% of the respondents rated it between 6 and 10, which means they tend to think the Decree was effective. In the previous survey in October 2017, 59% said the blocking was not effective, and 41% evaluated the Decree to be an effective solution.
8. 51.6% of the respondents: blocking websites improved the protection of national interests of Ukraine
Did limiting access to a number of Russian websites lead to improved protection of national interests of Ukraine? 51.6% of the respondents answer positively (‘yes’ or ‘rather yes’), whereas 39.2% answer negatively (‘no’ or ‘rather no’). For 9.2%, it was hard to answer this question.
9. 50% of the respondents said that signing Decree #133/2017 was a strategically right decision
Half of the respondents (50%) said that the decision of the President of Ukraine to limit access to a number of Russian website was ‘strategically right’, while 26.7% said that it was ‘strategically wrong.’ Another 23.3% of the respondents chose the ‘hard to say’ option.
10. Digital rights require legislative backup – 54.2% of the respondents
When asked if the notion of ‘digital rights’ should be introduced into Ukrainian legislation to clearly identify the role of the state in ensuring the Internet rights of citizens, 54.2% of the respondents gave a positive answer. 11.7% gave a negative answer. For 27.5% of the respondents it was hard to answer, and 6.6% provided their own answer.
11. The expert community has no clear standing on regulation of fake news and disinformation in Ukraine
When asked if there is the need for state mechanisms of regulation of fake news, disinformation, or manipulations in Ukraine, 34.2% of the respondents answered negatively. 28.3% gave a positive answer, and 11.7% were undecided. Another 25.8% of the respondents gave their own suggestions when answering this question.
12. Negative mood prevails among the experts regarding further steps of the government in Internet regulation policies
We asked the respondents what they expect from the government in terms of Internet regulation in Ukraine in the nearest year. 40% have rather negative expectations, and 10.8% more have negative expectations. For 15% and 1.7% of the experts, their expectations are rather positive and positive accordingly. 32.5% of the respondents find it hard to answer this question.
The questionnaire had 22 questions. 18 of them were subject-related, three questions were meant to identify the respondents, and one asked to give permission for processing of personal data. The questionnaire had four types of questions: 1. open questions, 2. closed questions that require choosing one answer, 3. closed questions with possible multiple answers, 4. questions that require to answer on the scale from 1 to 10.
The questions were written by NGO “Internews Ukraine” team with the participation of an external sociologist consultant. To carry out the survey, the project team prepared a database of respondents that included contacts of 250 experts from all three target groups.
The questionnaire was prepared with the help of Google Form and published online – https://goo.gl/forms/5AGWFs4YIqfZffkr1. Respondents received the link to the questionnaire directly from NGO “Internews Ukraine” representatives to their email or through other communication channels. The questionnaire was not openly available to external audiences.
Contact: Vitaliy Moroz, Head of New Media at NGO “Internews Ukraine”
The survey was conducted within the project “Protecting Internet Freedom in Ukraine by Engaging Stakeholders” implemented by Internews Ukraine funded by USAID through Counterpart International, Inc.
Read also results of expert survey on regulation of the Internet and digital rights in Ukraine conducted in October 2017.