3G Internet and Confidence in Government

Evidence for the Gurri thesis:

How does the internet affect government approval? Using surveys of 840,537 individuals from 2,232 subnational regions in 116 countries in 2008-2017 from the Gallup World Poll and the global expansion of 3G networks, we show that an increase in internet access reduces government approval and increases the perception of corruption in government. This effect is present only when the internet is not censored and is stronger when traditional media is censored. Actual incidents of corruption translate into higher corruption perception only in places covered by 3G. In Europe, the expansion of mobile internet increased vote shares of anti-establishment populist parties.

That is from a new paper by Sergei Guriev, Nikita Melnikov, and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, via the excellent Ilya Novak and Kevin Lewis.

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I wonder if this is simply due to more internet exposure per day, or if the "type" of internet exposure is relevant (i.e. content/headlines designed to catch your attention while multitasking in public on a relatively small screen).

I suspect the "type" is indeed relevant. 3G would increase the amount of media exposure related to "scrolling." Think quick bits of information and memes. Accessing the internet from a desktop computer is likely more similar to picking up a newspaper - one is more inclined to read entire articles, especially before touch screen scrolling became the dominant form of consuming news media.

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Both, I'm sure. Nothing drives clicks, and therefore ad revenue, like highly polarizing bad news. And thanks to aggregators and social media sites trying to create data to then mine and sell, you're constantly pounded by news that some algorithm says you want to see. So you not only get content that is designed to create a certain effect, but you get said content more often.

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How much of that was from the financial crisis of 2008? The bailouts moved many of my acquaintances away from libertarianism firmly into the anti-establishment camp.

The authors control for time fixed effects, so presumably none.

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It should probably go without saying, but this is what the ever-increasing push to censor the internet is about. After Trump was elected the first really big narrative push by the media was about "Fake News". It was about 1-2 days after the election and suddenly the "Fake News" meme was everywhere at once, obviously a coordinated push with the goal of suppressing information sources not controlled by the main media corporations. Social media corporations stepped up their censorship efforts in the wake of this.

Of course all news is fake--it's all just a narrative imposed on reality. In a country of 300 million people (and a world of 7 billion people), you can find an anecdote to illustrate any broader narrative you want. Remember how we spent years (from 2014-2016) with racist police shootings as the dominant (almost daily) news story? And then right after the Dallas shooting of police officers, it largely vanished from the mainstream media. The point is that the big increase in news coverage of police shootings wasn't caused by an actual increase in shootings and it went away even though shootings didn't stop.

The interesting question is how a Consensus-Reality can be maintained in a more decentralized communication environment. Maybe it really is impossible. If so, successful societies will be those that either re-centralize human communication with Thought-Policing efforts, or are able to accommodate a plurality of viewpoints by decentralizing political power.

The media is a business. It will pursue stories that increase its viewership for the purpose of selling ads. If amputee baboons in Appalachia is what sells, then it will be pushed through the media cycle to be exploited to the fullest. Most of the time the stories don't stick like Fox News' Benghazi leads or Washington Post's Trump tax return stories. Did you hear about Kanye West's new Sunday service?!?

The media is a business, but successful media figures typically consider themselves political actors as well

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>The media is a business.

Alternative view: the media is a money-loosing PR outfit for billionaires. e.g., NYT, Washington Post, etc.

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'Of course all news is fake'

Sport scores or measured amounts of precipitation at airports or reporting the results of an election - truly an Orwellian nightmare.

'The interesting question is how a Consensus-Reality can be' even considered a substitute for the reality that cares nonthing about consensus, actually.

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"obviously a coordinated push with the goal of suppressing information sources not controlled by the main media corporations"

Was it? 1000 fly by night 'news sources' that exist only as Twitter or Facebook accounts are not 'sources of information' and they certainly aren't free of control by major corporations.

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from the article:

"The two main identification assumptions for interpreting this estimation as causal are as follows: 1) the timing of the expansion of 3G mobile networks affects individuals’ attitudes toward government only through its effect on individuals’ access to the internet and 2) the expansion of 3G mobile networks is not itself driven by the expectation of changes in government approval or by any unobserved factor that can generate a spurious correlation between government approval and 3G network coverage. These
assumptions are not directly testable."

Also, old people that barely reads headlines. It would be much simpler to see the smartphone adoption rate of old uneducated ones.

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Is this the fault of search engines or social media? I don't use social media so I don't know how it directs traffic to particular internet sites, but I have noticed that results of my Google searches have become increasingly narrow. It's forced me to be much more creative in defining the search, not narrower but broader, in order to get results that are not filtered. Is this my imagination, or are others having the same experience with Google? An aside (?), how many times does one read in these comments that the commenter will not read, for example, an article in the NYT because the NYT is biased. If one never links to the NYT after a Google search, I suspect that eventually Google won't link to the NYT. I've also noticed that unrelated Google searches (unrelated in my mind) often times produce similar results, the prior searches acting as a filter to the current search. Again, is this my imagination, or are others having the same experience with Google?

It is the same experience for everyone. Yes, google is trying to present you with results that it deems most useful to you. The problem with that is that inconvenient results will go lower. Google is very efficient in creating echo chambers, regardless of your affiliation.

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"An aside (?), how many times does one read in these comments that the commenter will not read, for example, an article in the NYT because the NYT is biased. If one never links to the NYT after a Google search, I suspect that eventually Google won't link to the NYT. "

Indeed but how many of the commentators live in a world where truth matters? Let's say, for example, you happen to own a bunch of rental properties around the world. Will you ignore a NYT headline that says there's massive riots in one of the cities where your property is? I suspect not. Will you care if there's a 4chan thread that says Hillary cut a deal to let the lizard people take over that city? Probably so.

People who don't agree with the NYT often still read it because getting at the truth is important to them. People who declare they will never read the NYT because of some ideological sins are essentially declaring truth is optional in their world.

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I wonder how much of that reduced confidence in government is in fact justified. Out of 116 countries, I'd guess at least 2/3 have really lousy governments.

Or that governments aren't doing as well as they used to (objective differences over time)?

Or that government failures are harder to cover-up (subjective differences over time)?

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Straussian is just another word for having nothing to say.

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Former GOP Sen. Jeff Flake is not a Straussian: “Trust me when I say that you can go elsewhere for a job. But you cannot go elsewhere for a soul.”

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Yeah: The medium is the message!

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