Information and Communication Technologies, Protests, and Censorship
49 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2017 Last revised: 8 Jun 2017
Date Written: June 7, 2017
Abstract We develop a theory of information flows and political regime change assuming that citizens can use new information and communication technologies (ICTs) for both the information acquisition and protest coordination. The government, in turn, can respond by using censorship in two conceptually different forms: content censorship, or obfuscation, and coordination censorship, or restricting access to ICTs used for coordination. Our theory predicts that, first, introduction of new communication technologies lowers the probability of regime survival, but this effect is weaker in economies that do not rely heavily on ICTs for production. Second, we expect less competent governments to be more likely to use coordination censorship, though this effect is weaker in economies that use ICTs extensively. Third, content censorship is used by the intermediate types of governments. Fourth, both types of censorship are less likely if the costs of protests are higher. We empirically study the patterns of occurrence of DDoS attacks and VPN usage to test the predictions of the model. We find that, consistent with the model, DDoS attacks are used more often if our proxy for regime instability is high, and this effect is stronger in economies that are less dependent on ICTs. We also find that there are fewer DDoS attacks and fewer new VPN subscribers in periods when our proxy for the cost of protests is high.
Keywords: censorship, ICTs, revolution, regime change, global games, DDoS
JEL Classification: D7, D8
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation