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Censorship in democracy


Caesmann, Marcel; Goldzycher, Janis; Grigoletto, Matteo; Gschwent, Lorenz (2024). Censorship in democracy. Working paper series / Department of Economics 446, University of Zurich.

Abstract

The spread of propaganda, misinformation, and biased narratives from autocratic regimes, especially on social media, is a growing concern in many democracies. Can censorship be an effective tool to curb the spread of such slanted narratives? In this paper, we study the European Union’s ban on Russian state-led news outlets after the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. We analyze 775,616 tweets from 133,276 users on Twitter/X, employing a difference-in-differences strategy. We show that the ban reduced pro-Russian slant among users who had previously directly interacted with banned outlets. The impact is most pronounced among users with the highest pre-ban slant levels. However, this effect was short-lived, with slant returning to its pre-ban levels within two weeks post-enforcement. Additionally, we find a detectable albeit less pronounced indirect effect on users who had not directly interacted with the outlets before the ban. We provide evidence that other suppliers of propaganda may have actively sought to mitigate the ban’s influence by intensifying their activity, effectively counteracting the persistence and reach of the ban.

Abstract

The spread of propaganda, misinformation, and biased narratives from autocratic regimes, especially on social media, is a growing concern in many democracies. Can censorship be an effective tool to curb the spread of such slanted narratives? In this paper, we study the European Union’s ban on Russian state-led news outlets after the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. We analyze 775,616 tweets from 133,276 users on Twitter/X, employing a difference-in-differences strategy. We show that the ban reduced pro-Russian slant among users who had previously directly interacted with banned outlets. The impact is most pronounced among users with the highest pre-ban slant levels. However, this effect was short-lived, with slant returning to its pre-ban levels within two weeks post-enforcement. Additionally, we find a detectable albeit less pronounced indirect effect on users who had not directly interacted with the outlets before the ban. We provide evidence that other suppliers of propaganda may have actively sought to mitigate the ban’s influence by intensifying their activity, effectively counteracting the persistence and reach of the ban.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Working Paper Series > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
JEL Classification:D72, D78, L82, P16
Uncontrolled Keywords:Censorship, policy effectiveness, text-as-data, media slant
Scope:Discipline-based scholarship (basic research)
Language:English
Date:June 2024
Deposited On:06 Jun 2024 06:31
Last Modified:06 Jun 2024 06:32
Series Name:Working paper series / Department of Economics
Number of Pages:28
ISSN:1664-7041
OA Status:Green
Related URLs:https://www.econ.uzh.ch/en/research/workingpapers.html
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English