Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis


Mgrublian Center for Human Rights Best Thesis – Human Rights

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Reader 1

Hilary Appel

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2021 Jaelin J Kinney


The Internet and social media are being corrupted into authoritarian tools by autocrats and regimes, providing them with new ways to wield power, expand sociopolitical influence, undermine civil liberties, and repress the public. This weaponization, known as digital authoritarianism, is dismantling democracy and civil liberty throughout the world. Regimes have turned to China’s censorship system as a blueprint for establishing digital authoritarianism. The cases of China, Venezuela, and Syria all show that digital authoritarianism is built upon censorship laws, regime media institutions, and Internet control. But the latter two cases illustrate that social media weaponization differentiates China’s censorship from their digital authoritarianism. The regimes of Venezuela and Syria are using social media to spread misinformation and track dissident citizens and opponents. Venezuela alludes to a possible outcome of unchecked digital authoritarianism, while Syria offers a possible solution for countering it. Domestic and international netizens can use it to promulgate the “CNN Effect.” This effect can expand domestic wars and crises into the international sociopolitical sphere, encouraging intervention and global unity against a regime’s actions.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.