Social Media and Protest Mobilization: Evidence from the Tunisian Revolution

4th European Communuication Conferece for the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) Istanbul, Turkey, October 24-27, 2012

37 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2012

See all articles by Anita Breuer

Anita Breuer

German Development Insitute

Todd Landman

University of Essex

Dorothea Farquhar

University of Essex

Date Written: August 22, 2012

Abstract

One of the hallmarks of the Arab Spring uprisings has been the role of social media in articulating demands of the popular protesters and broadcasting dramatic events as they unfolded, but it is less clear whether social media acted as a catalyst for many of the movements in the region. Using evidence from the popular protests in Tunisia between December 2010 and January 2011, this paper argues that social media acted as an important resource for popular mobilization against the regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Drawing on the insights from ‘resource mobilization theory’ (RMT), we show that social media (1) allowed a ‘digital elite’ to break the national media blackout through brokering information for mainstream media; (2) provided the basis for intergroup collaboration that facilitated a large ‘cycle of protest’ to develop; (3) overcame the collective action problem through reporting event magnitudes that raised the perception of success for potential free riders, and (4) led to an additional element of ‘emotional mobilization’ through depicting the worst atrocities associated with the regime’s response to the protests. These findings are based on expert interviews with Tunisian bloggers and digital activists conducted in October 2011 and a revealed preference survey conducted among a sample of Tunisian internet users between February and May 2012.

Keywords: social media, resource mobilization, digital activism, Tunisian Revolution

Suggested Citation

Breuer, Anita and Landman, Todd and Farquhar, Dorothea, Social Media and Protest Mobilization: Evidence from the Tunisian Revolution (August 22, 2012). 4th European Communuication Conferece for the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) Istanbul, Turkey, October 24-27, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2133897 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2133897

Todd Landman

University of Essex ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester CO4 3SQ, CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom
441206872129 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.essex.ac.uk/government

Dorothea Farquhar

University of Essex ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester, CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.idcr.org.uk

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