Social Networks

Information and Freedom

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Science  31 Jan 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6170, pp. 463
DOI: 10.1126/science.343.6170.463-a
CREDIT: © GREENSHOOTS COMMUNICATIONS/ALAMY

There are many anecdotes linking digital media access to democracy, including the use of social media to organize and communicate information about protests. Rhue and Sundararajan collected needed empirical data on 189 countries for the period 2000–2010. Democracy was measured as scores from the independent watchdog organization Freedom House on civil liberties, media freedom, and political rights. Digital access (mobile phone and Internet) was obtained from the International Telecommunication Union, an agency of the United Nations. Digital access was positively associated with civil liberties and media freedom. Mobile penetration had a greater impact on civil liberties than Internet access. Dynamic analyses revealed that greater access to mobile technology had an increased effect on civil liberties when a neighboring country (or a trade partner) scored high in civil liberties, suggesting that the diffusion of civil liberties is enhanced by digital access.

Soc. Networks 36, 40 (2014).

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