A Model of Censorship, Propaganda, and Repression

We build on recent work on information design to explore the role of censorship, propaganda, and repression in autocratic rule. A government chooses a propaganda technology and a level of censorship to induce desired behavior by a representative citizen. Following receipt of a public signal, which censorship may render less informative, the government further decides whether to invest in repression. In equilibrium, censorship and repression coexist in the same regime; the government economizes on the former so that it is informed about when to invest in the latter. Propaganda, in turn, is uninformative-counter to the suggestion of standard models of persuasion. We show that the desired level of censorship can be implemented by a punishment strategy that induces self-censorship. Other forms of censorship may provide the government with more information than self-censorship, but the government cannot effectively employ such information to improve its welfare.
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