Mobilization for political change

The last decade has been characterized by a number of revolutions spurred by social media or mobile telephony, as authoritarian governments have been overthrown after fast mobilization through these communication channels.

Everyone probably knows about the Arab spring revolutions and the role social media played in them.

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Prior to these events, governments were also forced to leave in the Philippines (2001), Spain (2004), and Moldova (2009), due to mobilization that occurred through new media (Shirky:2010).

The advantages of the media for organizing opposition, building social movements, and mobilizing large groups of people are amongst others the immediacy and fluidity of these media, as well as the difficulties governments have to control them.

According to White and McAllister (2014), the political consequences of social media are graver for authoritarian regimes than in democratic states.  Authoritarian governments lose control over agenda-setting, and social media by default foster social movements and opposition formation. Responds by governments have been to shut down the internet at crucial periods, build permanent firewalls, monitor information flows, or manipulate information flows.

References

White, Stephen & McAllister, Ian (2014) Did Russia (Nearly) have a Facebook Revolution in 2011? Social Media’s Challenge to Authoritarianism, POLITICS: VOL 34(1), 72–84

Shirky, Clay (2010), The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change,  Foreign Affairs 90.1

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