Taxing Dissent: The Impact of a Social Media Tax in Uganda

43 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2021

See all articles by Levi Boxell

Levi Boxell

Stanford University

Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Date Written: January 14, 2021

Abstract

We examine the impact of a new tool for digital repression—a daily tax on social media use in Uganda. Using a synthetic control framework and exploiting the exogenous timing of the tax induced by the legislative calendar, we estimate that the tax reduced the number of georeferenced Twitter users by 14 percent. The effects are larger for poorer and less frequent users. Despite the overall decline in Twitter use, tweets referencing collective action and observed protests both increased around the onset of the tax relative to the synthetic control. The high salience of the tax as digital repression and its impact on the composition of users are two potential mechanisms for this backlash effect.

Keywords: social media, censorship, political dissent, protest, riot, tax

JEL Classification: D72, P52

Suggested Citation

Boxell, Levi and Steinert-Threlkeld, Zachary, Taxing Dissent: The Impact of a Social Media Tax in Uganda (January 14, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3766440 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3766440

Levi Boxell (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA
United States

Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) ( email )

405 Hilgard Avenue
Box 951361
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
23
Abstract Views
131
PlumX Metrics