The internet and state repression: A cross-national analysis of the limits of digital constraint

Daehee Bak, Surachanee Sriyai, Stephen A. Meserve

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Although the internet is an indispensable part of everyday life as well as an essential medium of political discourse, governments may struggle to completely black out their repressive actions. Thus, the internet creates a channel through which domestic dissenters stigmatize their own government for its atrocities using political pressure. Given the potential role of the internet in facilitating negative publicity of state repression, we contend that high internet penetration rates have deterring effects on state repression, strongly conditioned on regime characteristics. We find that the antirepression effects of the internet are greater in democracies, particularly in countries with a high level of constraint on executive decision making and a competitive process of executive selection. Our results suggest that extending internet access to citizens will yield protective effects primarily in those countries with already existing institutional restraints on the government.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)642-659
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Human Rights
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 20 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Law


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