Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy > Vol 4 > Issue 3

Media Censorship Backfire

Xiaoli Guo, Shanghai Institute of International Organization and Global Governance, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, P.R. China,
Suggested Citation
Xiaoli Guo (2023), "Media Censorship Backfire", Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy: Vol. 4: No. 3, pp 373-400.

Publication Date: 30 Nov 2023
© 2023 X. Guo
Censorshipmediapolitical economyformal theory


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In this article:
Model Setup 
Media Bias Manipulation 
News Cost Manipulation 
Censorship and Citizen Welfare 


This paper utilizes a game-theoretical model to present a comprehensive framework for understanding the causes and consequences of media censorship backfire. The model examines two state censorship tactics: manipulating media biases and manipulating the citizens’ cost of accessing news. The findings reveal that the commonly cited factors in existing literature—impaired media credibility, deteriorated citizen beliefs in the state, and decreased citizen responses to the media—only capture one type of censorship backfire. Manipulating media biases can generate conditions diametrically opposed to those mentioned above and backfire. Additionally, manipulating the citizens’ cost of news access can backfire without changing their beliefs. This tactic may also impact the level of media bias, yielding outcomes similar to those resulting from media bias manipulation. Based on my model, these various types of censorship backfire operate on essentially similar mechanisms, and can coexist under specific conditions.