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The Impact of Media Censorship: 1984 or Brave New World?

Author

Listed:
  • Yuyu Chen
  • David Y. Yang

Abstract

Media censorship is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes. We conduct a field experiment in China to measure the effects of providing citizens with access to an uncensored internet. We track subjects' media consumption, beliefs regarding the media, economic beliefs, political attitudes, and behaviors over 18 months. We find four main results: (i) free access alone does not induce subjects to acquire politically sensitive information; (ii) temporary encouragement leads to a persistent increase in acquisition, indicating that demand is not permanently low; (iii) acquisition brings broad, substantial, and persistent changes to knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and intended behaviors; and (iv) social transmission of information is statistically significant but small in magnitude. We calibrate a simple model to show that the combination of low demand for uncensored information and the moderate social transmission means China's censorship apparatus may remain robust to a large number of citizens receiving access to an uncensored internet.

Suggested Citation

  • Yuyu Chen & David Y. Yang, 2019. "The Impact of Media Censorship: 1984 or Brave New World?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(6), pages 2294-2332, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:109:y:2019:i:6:p:2294-2332
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20171765
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. González, Felipe, 2020. "Collective action in networks: Evidence from the Chilean student movement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 188(C).
    2. Becker, Sascha O. & Francisco J. Pino & Vidal-Robert, Jordi, 2021. "Freedom of the Press? Catholic Censorship during the Counter-Reformation," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1356, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    3. Brian Knight & Ana Tribin, 2019. "Opposition Media, State Censorship, and Political Accountability: Evidence from Chavez's Venezuela," NBER Working Papers 25916, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Omar Al-Ubaydli & John List & Claire Mackevicius & Min Sok Lee & Dana Suskind, 2019. "How Can Experiments Play a Greater Role in Public Policy? 12 Proposals from an Economic Model of Scaling," Artefactual Field Experiments 00679, The Field Experiments Website.
    5. Derksen, Laura & Leclerc, Catherine Michaud & Souza, Pedro CL, 2019. "Searching for Answers: The Impact of Student Access to Wikipedia," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 450, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    6. Derksen, Laura & Leclerc, Catherine Michaud & Souza, Pedro CL, 2019. "Searching for Answers : The Impact of Student Access to Wikipedia," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1236, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    7. Ekaterina Zhuravskaya & Maria Petrova & Ruben Enikolopov, 2020. "Political Effects of the Internet and Social Media," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 12(1), pages 415-438, August.
    8. Bai, Yu & Li, Yanjun, 2020. "Good bye Chiang Kai-shek? The long-lasting effects of education under the authoritarian regime in Taiwan," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 78(C).
    9. González, F & Muñoz, P & Prem, M, 2019. "Lost in Transition? The Persistence of Dictatorship Mayors," Documentos de Trabajo 017431, Universidad del Rosario.
    10. Felipe González & Pablo Muñoz & Mounu Prem, 2019. "Lost in Transition? The Persistance of Dictatorship Mayors," Documentos de Trabajo 525, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
    11. Jennifer Pan & Margaret E. Roberts, 2020. "Censorship’s Effect on Incidental Exposure to Information: Evidence From Wikipedia," SAGE Open, , vol. 10(1), pages 21582440198, February.
    12. González, Felipe & Muñoz, Pablo & Prem, Mounu, 2021. "Lost in transition? The persistence of dictatorship mayors," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 151(C).
    13. Bu, Di & Hanspal, Tobin & Liao, Yin & Liu, Yong, 2021. "Risk taking, preferences, and beliefs: Evidence from Wuhan," SAFE Working Paper Series 301, Leibniz Institute for Financial Research SAFE.
    14. Rafkin, Charlie & Shreekumar, Advik & Vautrey, Pierre-Luc, 2021. "When guidance changes: Government stances and public beliefs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 196(C).
    15. Yanfeng Zheng & Qinyu (Ryan) Wang, 2020. "Shadow of the great firewall: The impact of Google blockade on innovation in China," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(12), pages 2234-2260, December.
    16. Liu, Manwei, 2021. "Interdependent individuals : How aggregation, observation, and persuasion affect economic behavior and judgment," Other publications TiSEM ab3ef470-c4a4-4d6c-ba1a-4, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media
    • L86 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Information and Internet Services; Computer Software
    • L88 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Government Policy
    • P36 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - Consumer Economics; Health; Education and Training; Welfare, Income, Wealth, and Poverty

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