Implicit and Explicit Control: Modeling the Effect of Internet Censorship on Political Protest in China
This study brings the theory of structural threats to Internet research to examine the impact of Internet censorship on young adults’ political expression and protest. Conducted with a Web survey of university students in China (N = 2,188), this study shows, first, that the degree of awareness of Internet laws and regulations can contribute directly to young adults’ political protests or accelerate their political protest through online political expression, and second, that the degree of psychological perception of Internet censorship can directly weaken political protest or indirectly limit it by curtailing young people’s online political expression. Moreover, Internet censorship as an intended threat leads to political protest, but the relationship between Internet censorship and political protest is mediated through online political expression. This article discusses the implications of the findings for freedom of speech and Internet regulation under an authoritarian regime.