Quality & Quantity

, Volume 49, Issue 4, pp 1417–1435 | Cite as

Unspeaking on Facebook? Testing network effects on self-censorship of political expressions in social network sites

  • K. Hazel Kwon
  • Shin-Il MoonEmail author
  • Michael A. Stefanone


The aim of this study is to explore online social network exposure effects on predicting individual’s willingness to self-censor political expression (WTSC) and political posting behaviors. The spiral of silence (SOS) theory is applied to the context of online social networks wherein three major network characteristics are highlighted: reduced privacy, integration of multiple social context/relationships, and increase in unanticipated exposure to different opinions. The discussion leads us to propose three possible network effects in terms of WTSC and posting behavior including ‘relationship-specific fear of isolation’, ‘incongruence with dominant political orientation’, and ‘exposure to diverse opinions’. Results show that the exposure to diverse opinions is positively associated with WTSC, which in turn is associated with political posting behavior online. Interestingly, while fear of isolation from offline contacts increases WTSC, it has a positive association with actual posting behavior. We speculate to what extent the social conformity proposition of the SOS theory should persist online and call for further exploration of informational nfluence as conceptually distinct from normative influence.


Self-censorship Spiral of silence theory Diversity exposure Political expression Social network sites Informational influence 



We are thankful to reviewers and the editor for constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Hazel Kwon
    • 1
  • Shin-Il Moon
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michael A. Stefanone
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Social and Behavioral SciencesArizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA
  2. 2.Department of Digital MediaMyongji UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea
  3. 3.Department of CommunicationUniversity at Buffalo - SUNYBuffaloUSA

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