Digital Discrimination: Political Bias in Internet Service Provision across Ethnic Groups

Publication date: 
09/2016
Authors: 
Nils B Weidmann
Suso Benitez-Baleato
Philipp Hunziker
Eduard Glatz
Xenofontas Dimitropoulos
Digital Discrimination: Political Bias in Internet Service Provision across Ethnic Groups

Abstract

The global expansion of the Internet is frequently associated with improved government transparency, political rights, and democracy. However, this assumption depends on marginalized groups getting access in the first place. This article documents a strong and persistent political bias in the allocation of Internet coverage across ethnic groups worldwide. Relying on estimates of Internet penetration through network measurements, the article shows that politically excluded groups suffer from significantly lower Internet penetration rates as compared to those in power, an effect that cannot be explained by economic or geographic factors. These 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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