Social Media & COVID-19
In developing contexts where the state’s reach and credibility are limited, social media could help connect citizens with government and shape pro-social behaviors by informing and encouraging citizen action. These phenomena are especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, since citizens often lack information about how to act and/or lack incentives to do so. Building on a separate panel study we are concluding in Uganda, we propose an RCT evaluating an intervention that increases citizens’ access to social media for two months by paying participants’ social media tax and providing them with mobile data. The proposed endline survey will measure how social media access affects measures of (i) bottom-up accountability; (ii) attitudes and behaviors relating to COVID-19; and (iii) citizen welfare. Our results will inform both policy debates relating to social media and misinformation and academic debates on the welfare effects of social media, which have – thus far – focused predominantly on the Global North.