The Internet and Politics

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
29 May 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA V3R9 Art History with Modern Languages,
BA VR3B Art History with Modern Languages (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad)

Module description

How does the internet influence democratic politics? Does it facilitate collective action and even undermine authoritarian regimes? Which means and strategies do governments use to control and regulate the internet and its use by citizens? This class introduces academic debates about these and other questions. It discusses the internet's role in democratic politics, the online information environment, political engagement, democratization, government efforts to control internet use, and data protection.

Module aims

1) To encourage an analytical perspective on debates and claims that we encounter in academic circles and everyday public debate.
2) To encourage creative thinking about how we can formulate theories and generate evidence about the effects of the internet on political outcomes of interest.
3) To counter exaggerated or naïve beliefs about the transformative impact of the internet, on one hand, or its alleged irrelevance to politics, on the other.

Module learning outcomes

1) To develop a detailed knowledge of the key claims about how the internet influences politics as well as alternative theoretical perspectives on these claims.
2) To distinguish theoretically consistent claims about the effect of the internet on political outcomes from exaggerated claims about its transformative effect.
3) To formulate theoretical mechanisms and expectations about how the internet affects political outcomes.
4) To critically evaluate research designs and their underlying assumptions in the study of the internet and politics.
5) To be able to break down academic and public debates about the internet into tangible questions and arguments, and to formulate critical opinions on these.
6) To express yourself clearly and succinctly in discussions and written work on the relationship between the internet and politics.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered with (i) a weekly pre-recorded lecture and (ii) a weekly interactive lecture. The pre-recorded lecture will consist of one or more items of prepared content that students canaccess electronically and must study before the interactive lecture. The interactive lecture will consist of one 50-minute lecture in which students can ask questions about, and discuss various aspects of, the prepared content with the module supervisor.


  • Anduiza, Eva; Cristancho, Camilo; Sabucedo, José M. (2014-07-03) 'Mobilization through online social networks: the political protest of the in Spain', in Information, Communication & Society. vol. 17 (6) , pp.750-764
  • We Tracked Down A Fake-News Creator In The Suburbs. Here's What We Learned, https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/11/23/503146770/npr-finds-the-head-of-a-covert-fake-news-operation-in-the-suburbs?t=1561108080226
  • Sunstein, Cass R. (2004-12-01) 'Democracy and filtering', in Communications of the ACM. vol. 47 (12) , pp.57-
  • Hersh, Eitan D.; Schaffner, Brian F. (2013-04) 'Targeted Campaign Appeals and the Value of Ambiguity', in The Journal of Politics. vol. 75 (2) , pp.520-534
  • Colleoni, Elanor; Rozza, Alessandro; Arvidsson, Adam. (2014-04) 'Echo Chamber or Public Sphere? Predicting Political Orientation and Measuring Political Homophily in Twitter Using Big Data', in Journal of Communication. vol. 64 (2) , pp.317-332
  • Morozov, Evgeny. (2009) 'The brave new world of slacktivism', in Foreign Policy. (May 19)
  • King, G.; Pan, J.; Roberts, M. E. (2014-08-22) 'Reverse-engineering censorship in China: Randomized experimentation and participant observation', in Science. vol. 345 (6199) , pp.1251722-1251722
  • Dubois, Elizabeth; Blank, Grant. (2018-05-04) 'The echo chamber is overstated: the moderating effect of political interest and diverse media', in Information, Communication & Society. vol. 21 (5) , pp.729-745
  • Flaxman, Seth; Goel, Sharad; Rao, Justin M. (2016) 'Filter Bubbles, Echo Chambers, and Online News Consumption', in Public Opinion Quarterly. vol. 80 (S1) , pp.298-320
  • Daniel Kreiss; Shannon C. McGregor. (2018) 'Technology Firms Shape Political Communication: The Work of Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, and Google With Campaigns During the 2016 U.S. Presidential Cycle', in Political Communication. vol. 35 (2) , pp.155-177
  • Tandoc, Edson C.; Lim, Zheng Wei; Ling, Richard. (2018-02-07) 'Defining “Fake News”', in Digital Journalism. vol. 6 (2) , pp.137-153
  • Gary King; Jennifer Pan; Margaret E. Roberts. (2017) 'How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, Not Engaged Argument', in American Political Science Review. vol. 111 (3) , pp.484-501
  • Hellmeier, Sebastian. (2016-12) 'The Dictator's Digital Toolkit: Explaining Variation in Internet Filtering in Authoritarian Regimes', in Politics & Policy. vol. 44 (6) , pp.1158-1191
  • Fung, Archon; Russon Gilman, Hollie; Shkabatur, Jennifer. (2013-03) 'Six Models for the Internet + Politics', in International Studies Review. vol. 15 (1) , pp.30-47
  • Ruijgrok, Kris. (2016-09-08) 'From the web to the streets: internet and protests under authoritarian regimes', in Democratization., pp.1-23
  • DeNardis, Laura. (©2014) The global war for Internet governance, New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Jeroen Van Laer; Peter Van Aelst. (2010) 'Internet and Social Movement Action Repertoires', in Information, Communication & Society. vol. 13 (8) , pp.1146-1171
  • Boulianne, Shelley. (2009-05-11) 'Does Internet Use Affect Engagement? A Meta-Analysis of Research', in Political Communication. vol. 26 (2) , pp.193-211
  • Beware online "filter bubbles", https://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles
  • Vissers, Sara; Stolle, Dietlind. (2014-09-14) 'The Internet and new modes of political participation: online versus offline participation', in Information, Communication & Society. vol. 17 (8) , pp.937-955
  • Bakker, Tom P.; de Vreese, Claes H. (2011-08) 'Good News for the Future? Young People, Internet Use, and Political Participation', in Communication Research. vol. 38 (4) , pp.451-470
  • Bond, Robert M.; Fariss, Christopher J.; Jones, Jason J.; Kramer, Adam D. I.; Marlow, Cameron; Settle, Jaime E.; Fowler, James H. (2012-9) 'A 61-million-person experiment in social influence and political mobilization', in Nature. vol. 489 (7415) , pp.295-298
  • Gladwell, Malcolm. (2010) 'Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted', in The New Yorker. vol. 86 (32) , pp.42-
  • Breuer, Anita; Landman, Todd; Farquhar, Dorothea. (2015-06-07) 'Social media and protest mobilization: evidence from the Tunisian revolution', in Democratization. vol. 22 (4) , pp.764-792
  • Freedom on the Net 2018 | Freedom House, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/freedom-net-2018
  • Min Jiang. (2010/12/05) 'Authoritarian Informationalism: China's Approach to Internet Sovereignty', in SAIS Review of International Affairs: Johns Hopkins University Press. vol. 30 (2) , pp.71-89
  • Newman, Abraham L. (2011-04) 'Watching the Watchers: Transgovernmental Implementation of Data Privacy Policy in Europe', in Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice. vol. 13 (2) , pp.181-194
  • Hunt Allcott; Matthew Gentzkow. (no date) 'Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election', in Journal of Economic Perspectives. vol. 31 (2) , pp.211-236
  • Milner, Helen V. (2006) 'The Digital Divide', in Comparative Political Studies. vol. 39 (2) , pp.176-199

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Mid-term Reading Review    30% 
Written Exam  Essay    70% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Thomas Winzen, email: thomas.winzen@essex.ac.uk.
Dr Thomas Winzen
Module Supervisor: Dr Thomas Winzen - thomas.winzen@essex.ac.uk / Module Administrator: Lewis Olley - govquery@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Arzu Kibris
University of Warwick
Associate Professor
Available via Moodle
Of 20 hours, 18 (90%) hours available to students:
2 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.