Crisis is a Gateway to Censored Information: The Case of Coronavirus in China
31 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2020 Last revised: 7 Jan 2021
Date Written: October 2, 2020
Crisis and anxiety motivate people to track news closely. We examine the consequences of this increased motivation in authoritarian regimes that normally exert significant control over access to media. Using the case of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, we show that crisis spurs censorship circumvention to access international news and political content on websites blocked in China. Once individuals have circumvented censorship, they not only receive more information about the crisis itself, but the crisis becomes a gateway to unrelated information that the regime has long censored. Through this mechanism, crisis both increases attention to information relevant to individuals’ current circumstances and incidentally increases access to information that the regime considers sensitive.
Keywords: China, Media, Censorship, Coronavirus
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