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Taxing dissent: The impact of a social media tax in Uganda

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  • Boxell, Levi
  • Steinert-Threlkeld, Zachary

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 13 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Boxell, Levi & Steinert-Threlkeld, Zachary, 2022. "Taxing dissent: The impact of a social media tax in Uganda," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 158(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:158:y:2022:i:c:s0305750x22001401
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2022.105950
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    social media; censorship; political dissent; protest; riot; tax;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • P52 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - Comparative Studies of Particular Economies

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