Bei Qin, David Strömberg, Yanhui Wu, 25 May 2018

The Chinese government has invested heavily in surveillance systems that exploit information on social media. This column shows that these systems are very effective, even in their simplest form. From the government’s point of view, social media, although unattractive as a potential outlet for organised social protest, is useful as a method to surveil protests, monitor local officials, and disseminate propaganda.

Bei Qin, David Strömberg, Yanhui Wu, 25 May 2018

Brian Knight, Ana Tribin, 06 May 2016

The media plays a significant role in politics, but households can choose not to consume political propaganda delivered through the media. This column uses evidence from Venezuela to show that households that support opposition parties are more inclined to switch away from, or tune out of, government propaganda delivered via the television. Higher-income households, which tend to have access to alternative channels via cable, are also less likely to consume propaganda. These findings have significant implications for politically polarised societies.

Nico Voigtländer, Joachim Voth, 18 June 2015

Radical beliefs and violent hatred are back in the headlines and worrying policymakers around the world. This column discusses new research that suggests that, in the case of Nazi Germany, subjecting an entire population to the full power of a totalitarian state was extremely effective in instilling lasting hatred. Extremist views are still three times higher among Germans born in the 1930s than those born after 1950. However, family and the social environment can isolate young minds from the effects of indoctrination at least to some extent.

Sergei Guriev, Daniel Treisman, 21 March 2015

In recent decades, new forms of dictatorship based on manipulating information rather than on mass violence, have emerged. This column explores the trade-offs and techniques of the modern dictator. Such dictators can survive using little violence in the face of moderate economic underperformance. Economic downturns often prompt an increase in censorship and propaganda. Though new information-based dictatorships are better adapted to a modernised society, modernisation and access to information, as well as economic contractions could undermine them.

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