The effect of the Internet on civic engagement under authoritarianism: The case of Azerbaijan

Katy E. Pearce, Deen Freelon, Sarah Kendzior


This study examines civic activities under an authoritarian state — Azerbaijan — focusing on how the Internet may influence them. The role of the Internet in political and civic engagement is a subject of debate in any society. But Azerbaijan offers a unique vantage point to study the Internet’s effect on engagement because it views the Internet as an extension of sovereign dominion and controls online discussions. The government maintains the same view of the Internet as it does towards non–governmental engagement: it is unacceptable because it occurs outside state parameters. Using two nationally representative datasets from 2011, logistic regression analysis found that the Internet is associated with public civic engagement (and some forms of private civic engagement) but not with political government engagement. All results were robust to demographic controls, strengthening confidence that the Internet was at least indicative of, if not contributory to, civic life in Azerbaijan outside of the government.


Azerbaijan, civic engagement, internet, authoritarianism

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