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Digital discrimination: Political bias in Internet service provision across ethnic groups

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Science  09 Sep 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6304, pp. 1151-1155
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf5062

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Abstract

The global expansion of the Internet is frequently associated with increased government transparency, political rights, and democracy. However, this assumption depends on marginalized groups getting access in the first place. Here we document a strong and persistent political bias in the allocation of Internet coverage across ethnic groups worldwide. Using estimates of Internet penetration obtained through network measurements, we show that politically excluded groups suffer from significantly lower Internet penetration rates compared with those in power, an effect that cannot be explained by economic or geographic factors. Our findings underline one of the central impediments to “liberation technology,” which is that governments still play a key role in the allocation of the Internet and can, intentionally or not, sabotage its liberating effects.

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