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The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics

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Cheap Talk and Editorial Control

Jonathan Newton
Published Online: 2014-02-19 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bejte-2013-0002


This paper analyzes simple models of editorial control. Starting from the framework developed by Krishna and Morgan (2001a), we analyze two-sender models of cheap talk where one or more of the senders has the power to veto messages before they reach the receiver. A characterization of the most informative equilibria of such models is given. It is shown that editorial control never aids communication and that for small biases in the senders’ preferences relative to those of the receiver, necessary and sufficient conditions for information transmission to be adversely affected are (i) that the senders have opposed preferences relative to the receiver and (ii) that both senders have powers of editorial control. It is shown that the addition of further senders beyond two weakly decreases information transmission when senders exercising editorial control are anonymous, and weakly increases information transmission when senders exercising editorial control are observed.

Keywords: cheap talk; editorial control; Wikipedia


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About the article

Published Online: 2014-02-19

Published in Print: 2014-01-01

See Krishna and Morgan (2001b); Farrell and Gibbons (1989); Battaglini (2002); Chakraborty and Harbaugh (2007).

See Chen (2011); Ottaviani and Squintani (2006); Kartik, Ottaviani, and Squintani (2007).

Krishna and Morgan (2001b) also study the case where the two senders send messages sequentially rather than simultaneously. In such a model, it is impossible to achieve full revelation of private information. As the goal of the paper is to present the simplest model of editorial control, the author chooses to present results stemming from the simultaneous senders model.

Although both experts have the same information, the sender with editorial control can still gain from employing a further sender when payoffs are compared to equilibrium payoffs of the one sender game.

Such a situation is by no means unusual. Research for policy formation bodies – “think tanks” – is often undertaken by people who are by no means experts in any sense of the word. The entire weight attributed to their opinions comes from the fact that they are operating under the aegis of a well-known organization. Were they to leave the organization and write some research on their own it is unlikely that many people would read it or that any press coverage would be achieved.

For example, in every UK general election since 1992, at least 28% of readers of the most read newspaper in the United Kingdom, the Sun, have voted for the largest party opposed to the party supported by the newspaper. The Sun supported the Conservatives in 1992, 2010; Labor in 1997, 2001, 2005. Source: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2476/Voting-by-Newspaper-Readership-19922010.aspx.

As of January 7th 2012, English Wikipedia contained 3,840,444 articles. During 2011 there were 59 requests to open arbitration cases, only 13 of which were accepted. 16 cases were heard and settled by the arbitration committee in 2011. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Statistics 2011

In the context of Wikipedia, such a reduction in anonymity is provided by the availability of the IP addresses of those who make changes to articles. This information can be used to identify possible editing by interested parties, such as edits of the biographical information of US congressmen via congressional IP addresses. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S. Congressional staff edits to Wikipedia.

For example, if there existed a message “black” that a sender sent in equilibrium when the state was “white” then the “meaning” of “black” would be “white”.

Non-monotonic equilibria do exist. An example is given in Appendix B.

We note that criticisms of Krishna and Morgan (2001a) also apply to the current paper. In particular, the equilibrium constructions rely on the perfect observation of the θ by the senders (Battaglini 2002). It is plausible to think that disagreement between senders over the state of the world could be a reason for message blocking. The current paper abstracts from such possibilities to focus on strategic considerations.

This is similar to the observation of Dessein (2002) that R may want to commit to playing the best action for the sender (allow the sender to choose the action) to induce full revelation.

Citation Information: The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, ISSN (Online) 1935-1704, ISSN (Print) 2194-6124, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bejte-2013-0002.

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