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Social media has power to influence politics, as shown by the Arab Spring, Donald Trump’s election, and Brexit. In Russia, similar concerns have been raised about the political impact of official censorship and government-funded disinformation campaigns on the largest Russian social media platform, VKontakte. In a time of increased scrutiny of social media’s role in polarising political discourse, this study takes a deeper look at the relationship between social media use and political views. In particular, this study seeks to evaluate this relationship in the context of migrants, which remains previously unexplored. Through 12 semi-structured interviews, this study examines the experiences of Russian university students in Glasgow regarding social media use and political views. The results showed that Facebook can act as a tool for learning political norms. In turn, it found that negative Russian stereotypes and ill-informed portrayals on Facebook steered Russians to use VKontakte or other Russian services for news regarding Russia. At the same time, it was found that a lack of data security and self-censorship on VKontakte can drive users away from the platform in favour of Facebook. Overall, this study highlights the importance of considering the different ways in which social networking services can impact political views.
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