Scaling Authoritarian Information Control: How China Adjusts the Level of Online Censorship
Political Research Quarterly
97 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021
Date Written: January 13, 2021
Autocracies can conduct “strategic censorship" online by selectively targeting different types of content, and by adjusting the level of information control. While studies have confirmed the state’s selective targeting behaviour in censorship, few have empirically examined how the autocracies may adjust the control level. Using data with a 6-year span, this paper tests whether the Chinese state scales up control over citizenry complaints in reaction to a series of socio-political events. The results show that instead of responding to mass protests and major disasters as previous studies have suggested, the state tend to adjust the control level because of political ceremonies, policy shifts, or leadership changes. The findings help refine the strategic censorship theory and offer a granular understanding of the motives and tactics of authoritarian information control.
Keywords: Authoritarian information control, strategic censorship, Internet, China
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