RFE/RL says audiences in Ukraine and Russia are consuming its coverage of the war “in unprecedented numbers despite extensive Kremlin attempts to block RFE/RL’s websites and most social media platforms.”
The organization reported what it describes as significant traffic spikes. “In one day, Oct. 10, combined Facebook and YouTube views of RFE/RL’s Russian-language platform ‘Current Time’ videos exceeded 17 million,” it announced.
“RFE/RL videos documenting the reality of, and opposition to, the Kremlin’s draft have been the top video on Russian YouTube at multiple points since conscription was announced, accounting for the largest peak in the company’s Russian-language traffic since the war began.”
It said that in the seven days after mobilization was announced in September, YouTube views from Russia averaged around 17 million per day.
It reported big spikes in website traffic for “Current Time” and visits to the Russian Service website.
“Video views of RFE/RL content from inside Russia on YouTube increased 529% in the same period. Since the start of the war on February 24, 2022, Russia-based audiences have viewed RFE/RL videos 1.5 billion times on YouTube.”
RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly said the organization is circumventing Russian censorship and that Russians “are desperate to learn what is really going on.” Tactics include promoting the use of free VPNs, use of mirror sites, community messaging through Viber and Telegram, and Tor for anonymous browsing.
But it also noted that the Kremlin has blocked 14 RFE/RL Russian-language websites and initiated bankruptcy proceedings against its Russian legal entity.