"Living Among His People" Internet Access and Political Stability in Authoritarian Regimes
Kern, Andreas T
This study aims to analyze the relationship between Internet access and political stability in authoritarian regimes. Internet access has been argued to both overcome certain barriers to collective action and significantly reduce the cost of monitoring and identifying dissidents. Contrary to prior research, I hypothesize that a non-linear relationship exists between Internet access and regime stability. By applying fixed effects regression models with Driscoll-Kraay standard errors to a panel of 183 countries between 1990 and 2010, my research extends on previous studies that limit their samples to incidents where information technology has had an obvious role in democratic transition or suppression. The results of this analysis suggest that political stability initially decreases in authoritarian regimes, but, once a threshold of about 9 subscribers per 100 citizens is reached, dictators are able to take advantage of the information shared by a growing proportion of their citizens with Internet access to enhance stability. While the Internet has undoubtedly had a notable impact on relations between citizens and their governments, we must be wary of misguided policies that regard the Internet as an indisputable tool with which to topple repressive regimes.
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