When Would a State Crack Down on Fake News? Explaining Variation in the Governance of Fake News in Asia-Pacific

Neo, Ric
Political Studies Review

This article sets out to explain national variation in the governance of fake news; it asks, under what conditions would governments pursue securitization in order to address the threat of fake news? Through a fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis of 24 countries in Asia-Pacific, this article explores multicausal explanations behind why some countries have moved to securitize fake news?framing it as an existential threat and justifying the passing of laws that curtail civil liberties?while others do not. The analysis yields two main findings. First, although prevailing political arguments emphasize the threat of fake news to society and national security as justification for the securitization of fake news, this condition is neither necessary nor sufficient in causally accounting for the decision to crackdown on fake news. Conversely, crackdowns on fake news occur more frequently in countries less affected by fake news. Second, the analysis provides a set of two distinct, theoretically and empirically relevant causal pathways explaining the decision to crack down on fake news; the first pathway shows how non-democratic states without media freedom and which are relatively less affected by fake news instrumentalize the issue to restrict freedom of speech further; the second pathway shows how non-democratic states experiencing economic growth and political turbulence with proximate elections attempt to restrict freedom of speech. The findings suggest that implementations of broad legislation may not be an optimal approach, given that they appear to be more motivated by political circumstances than by the objective resolution of the problem.