Do Anticorruption Blogs Matter? Alexei Navalny’s Example

Some blogs, including this one, are devoted to analysis and discussion of anticorruption policy issues.  But a number of anticorruption bloggers are more like investigative journalists—finding and exposing instances of (alleged or apparent) corruption. Do these blogs make a difference?

This question is related to the more general question of whether the modern communications revolution—particularly the spread of internet access—will be helpful in fighting corruption. There’s reason for optimism: there’s already lots of evidence that the spread of traditional media (newspaper and radio) were crucial in the fight against corruption in the 20th century, and the internet (along with other communications technologies, like mobile phones) lowers the cost of both disseminating and accessing information about corrupt activities. In addition to individual anticorruption bloggers and websites, platforms like I Paid a Bribe and Bribespot are emerging that may enable much larger numbers of people to disseminate information. These new technologies have gotten a lot of press, but do they make a big difference?

There’s surprisingly little systematic evidence on the impact of internet on corruption, but a recent paper on the Russian anticorruption blogger (and opposition figure) Alexei Nevalny, co-authored by Ruben Enikolopov, Maria Petrova, and Konstantin Sonin, suggests that this sort of anticorruption blogging may have a real impact. Nevalny is a well-known (and controversial) figure in Russia, and he got a lot of international press last month for his exposé on corruption in the Sochi Winter Olympics. But he got his start blogging about corruption in Russian state-owned companies. And, according to Enikolopov, Petrova, and Sonin, Navalny’s posts made a difference: when he posted about a company on his anticorruption blog, that company’s value took a significant hit. What can we learn from this? Continue reading