Evade and Deceive? Citizen Responses to Online Surveillance

Journal article

Eck, Kristine; Sophia Hatz; Charles Crabtree & Atsushi Tago (2021) Evade and Deceive? Citizen Responses to Online Surveillance, Journal of Politics 83 (4): 1545–1558.

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How does state surveillance influence citizens’ willingness to express political and social opinions? This article theorizes about different citizen responses to surveillance which fall on what we term the evasion-deception spectrum, including preference falsification, self-censorship, and opting-out. We present the results from an empirical exploration of these responses, drawing on an online survey experiment conducted in Japan. In our survey, we use a novel experimental stimulus to assess whether individuals engage in different forms of evasion and deception when plausibly under government surveillance. The study finds that citizens are substantially more likely to opt-out of sharing their opinions (by exiting a survey) when reminded of their government’s capacity for monitoring. This occurs even when it implies a monetary cost (forfeiting payment for the survey) and even in a fully consolidated democracy, where freedoms of speech and opinion are legally codified. We conclude by discussing the implications of this finding for democratic deliberation and citizen-state relations.

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