Volume 68, Issue 3 p. 569-582
RESEARCH ARTICLE

News censorship in online social networks: A study of circumvention in the commentsphere

David G. Schwartz

David G. Schwartz

Graduate School of Business Administration, Bar-Ilan University, Max VeAnna Webb St., Ramat Gan, 52900, Israel

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Inbal Yahav

Inbal Yahav

Graduate School of Business Administration, Bar-Ilan University, Max VeAnna Webb St., Ramat Gan, 52900, Israel

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Gahl Silverman

Gahl Silverman

Conflict Resolution, Management and Negotiation Graduate Program, Bar-Ilan University, Max VeAnna Webb St., Ramat Gan, 52900, Israel

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First published: 03 June 2016
Citations: 4

Abstract

This study investigates the interplay between online news, reader comments, and social networks to detect and characterize comments leading to the revelation of censored information. Censorship of identity occurs in different contexts–for example, the military censors the identity of personnel and the judiciary censors the identity of minors and victims. We address three objectives: (a) assess the relevance of identity censorship in the presence of user-generated comments, (b) understand the fashion of censorship circumvention (what people say and how), and (c) determine how comment analysis can aid in identifying decensorship and information leakage through comments. After examining 3,582 comments made on 48 articles containing obfuscated terms, we find that a systematic examination of comments can compromise identity censorship. We identify and categorize information leakage in comments indicative of knowledge of censored information that may result in information decensorship. We show that the majority of censored articles contained at least one comment leading to censorship circumvention.