Digital Authoritarianism and the Future of Human Rights

Tiberiu Dragu, Yonatan Lupu

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    How will advances in digital technology affect the future of human rights and authoritarian rule? Media figures, public intellectuals, and scholars have debated this relationship for decades, with some arguing that new technologies facilitate mobilization against the state and others countering that the same technologies allow authoritarians to strengthen their grip on power. We address this issue by analyzing the first game-theoretic model that accounts for the dual effects of technology within the strategic context of preventive repression. Our game-theoretical analysis suggests that technological developments may not be detrimental to authoritarian control and may, in fact, strengthen authoritarian control by facilitating a wide range of human rights abuses. We show that technological innovation leads to greater levels of abuses to prevent opposition groups from mobilizing and increases the likelihood that authoritarians will succeed in preventing such mobilization. These results have broad implications for the human rights regime, democratization efforts, and the interpretation of recent declines in violent human rights abuses.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)991-1017
    Number of pages27
    JournalInternational Organization
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Aug 7 2021


    • Human rights
    • authoritarianism
    • formal theory
    • information technology
    • repression

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations
    • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
    • Law


    Dive into the research topics of 'Digital Authoritarianism and the Future of Human Rights'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this