Accountability from cyberspace? Scandal exposure on the Internet and official governance in China

Shuo Chen, Yiran Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the effects of social media on government accountability under authoritarian regimes. It examines whether online discussions have a disciplining effect on officials' scandals. We use a unique dataset containing records of scandals discussed on microblogs in China to systematically study their effects on the government response process and officials' disciplining. We find that the government employs clear strategies: higher levels of online discussion lead to quicker government responses and more severe punishment of the officials involved. Scandals involving sexual and economic factors, which initially capture more attention, involve quicker responses and more severe punishments. Even when we exploit rainfall as the instrumental variable to mitigate the endogeneity, the results are still robust. Our findings highlight the accountability mechanism facilitated by social media and the power of social media empowerment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-145
Number of pages16
JournalPolitical Science Research and Methods
Issue number1
Early online date30 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • China
  • government accountability
  • official governance
  • scandal
  • social media


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