Information Politics Versus Organizational Incentives: When Are Amnesty International's "Naming and Shaming" Reports Biased?

Daniel W. Hill, Will H. Moore, Bumba Mukherjee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


"Information politics" INGOs such as Amnesty International have incentives to maintain their credibility by carefully vetting information about rights abuses committed by governments. But they are also strategic actors that may inflate allegations of abuse to fulfill organizational imperatives. This raises an intriguing question: When are INGOs more likely to exaggerate their allegations? In answer to this question, we argue that news media reporting pressures INGOs to comment for organizational reasons, even if the information available to them is poor. On the other hand, higher numbers of domestic human rights NGOs increase the quality of available information, and INGOs will find more credible information provided about states as the winning coalition to the selectorate rises. Yet, an incentive to exaggerate allegations under certain conditions does not imply that INGOs will always do so. Indeed, there exists significant observed variation in INGO reports about government abuse. To test our hypotheses, we employ a zero-inflated ordered probit model with correlated errors that permits us to model an unobservable probability (the probability that the INGO exaggerates its allegations) and correct for potential bias. Results provide support for our hypotheses, and suggest that Amnesty International adheres to its credibility criterion, rarely succumbing to incentives to exaggerate abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-232
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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