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Election-related internet-shutdowns in autocracies and hybrid regimes

posted on 23.06.2022, 12:40 authored by Kristin Eichhorn, Eric Linhart

In autocratic and hybrid regimes, the internet plays an ambiguous role. It simultaneously possesses the quality of a liberation technology and opportunities for digital authoritarianism. Although autocrats have learned to utilize the internet to their advantage, they are aware of its liberation potential. Whenever the political survival of the regime is challenged, they use manipulative tools to avert uncertainty. Shutting down the internet has become one of these tools. This articleanalyzes the occurrence of internet shutdowns during national elections in autocratic and hybrid regimes. We show that internet shutdowns do not occur erratically but rather follow strategic decisions. Although capacity to control access to the internet is crucial, we highlight the importance of incentives to shut down the internet provided by different degrees of uncertainty during the election.