Does Social Media Influence Conflict? Evidence from the 2012 Gaza Conflict
60 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2014
Date Written: March 11, 2014
How does international public support via social media influence conflict dynamics? To answer this question, I construct a unique dataset drawn from social media sources to examine the behavior of Israel and Hamas during the 2012 Gaza Conflict. I code Hamas’s and Israel’s communication, their conflict intensity, and United States, United Nations, and Egyptian attention to the conflict at an extremely disaggregated (hourly) level for the full 179 hours of the conflict. Notably, I also use social media sources to construct hourly time series data on each side’s popular support from international audiences during the conflict. I employ a Bayesian Structural Vector Autoregression (BSVAR) to measure how Israel’s and Hamas’s actions respond to shifts in international public support. The main finding is that shifts in public support reduce the conflict intensity, particularly for Israel. Conversely, increases in the attention of the international actors — US, Egypt, and UN — slightly increase the conflict intensity of both Hamas and Israel. The results provide an important insight into how information technology is changing the role of international audiences in conflict, and how they in turn, shape participants’ strategies.
Keywords: social media, conflict dynamics, time series
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