Google Politics:The political determinants of internet censorship in democracies

Stephen A. Meserve, Daniel Pemstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The expansion of digital interconnectivity has simultaneously increased individuals' access to media and presented governments with new opportunities to regulate information flows. As a result, even highly democratic countries now issue frequent censorship and user data requests to digital content providers. We argue that government internet censorship occurs, in part, for political reasons, and seek to identify the conditions under which states censor. We leverage new, cross-nationally comparable, censorship request data, provided by Google, to examine how country characteristics co-vary with governments' digital censorship activity. Within democracies, we show that governments engage in more digital censorship when internal dissent is present and when their economies produce substantial intellectual property. But these demand mechanisms are modulated by the relative influence that democratic institutions provide to narrow and diffuse interests; in particular, states with proportional electoral institutions censor less.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-263
Number of pages19
JournalPolitical Science Research and Methods
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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