Political Effects of the Internet and Social Media
Forthcoming, Annual Review of Economics. DOI/10.1146/annurev-economics-081919-050239
32 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2019 Last revised: 6 Feb 2020
Date Written: February 5, 2020
How do the internet and social media affect political outcomes? We review empirical evidence from the recent political-economy literature, focusing primarily on the work that considers traits that distinguish the internet and social media from traditional offline media, such as low barriers to entry and reliance on user-generated content. We discuss the main results about the effects of the internet, in general, and social media, in particular, on voting, street protests, attitudes toward government, political polarization, xenophobia, and politicians’ behavior. We also review evidence on the role of social media in the dissemination of false news, and we summarize results about the strategies employed by autocratic regimes to censor the internet and to use social media for surveillance and propaganda. We conclude by highlighting open questions about how the internet and social media shape politics in democracies and autocracies.
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