Talking About Killing: Cell Phones, Collective Action, and Insurgent Violence in Iraq

60 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2011

See all articles by Jacob N. Shapiro

Jacob N. Shapiro

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Nils Weidmann

Peace Research Institute Oslo

Date Written: May 31, 2011

Abstract

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

Shapiro, Jacob N. and Weidmann, Nils, Talking About Killing: Cell Phones, Collective Action, and Insurgent Violence in Iraq (May 31, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1859638 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1859638

Jacob N. Shapiro (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1013
United States

Nils Weidmann

Peace Research Institute Oslo ( email )

Oslo, NO-0134
Norway

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