Talking About Killing: Cell Phones, Collective Action, and Insurgent Violence in Iraq
60 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2011
Date Written: May 31, 2011
Does improved communication as provided by modern cell phone technology affect the production of violence during insurgencies? Theoretical predictions are ambiguous. On the one hand, cell phones are assumed to enhance communication among insurgents, thus making it possible for them to coordinate more effectively. On the other hand, mobile communications can also hamper insurgent activity, by allowing the population to share information with counterinsurgents. This paper makes a first attempt to provide a systematic test of the effect of cell phone communication on conflict. Using data on Iraq’s cell phone network as well as event data on violence, we assess this effect at two levels. First, we analyze how violence at the district level changes as a result of the introduction of new cell phone towers. Second, using a novel identification strategy, we examine how insurgent operation in the tower’s vicinity is affected by the introduction of coverage. Taken together, our results show that mobile communication seems to increase the information flow from the population to the military, thus reducing insurgent effectiveness and ultimately, violence.
Keywords: Information Communication Technology, Insurgency, Collective Action
JEL Classification: P16, D74
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation