Social Media and Protest Participation: Evidence from Russia

99 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2015 Last revised: 20 Nov 2018

See all articles by Ruben Enikolopov

Ruben Enikolopov

Institute of Political Economy and Governance; New Economic School; ICREA; Universitat Pompeu Fabra; Barcelona GSE

Alexey Makarin

Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF)

Maria Petrova

Institute for Political Economy and Governance, Barcelona; Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats - ICREA; Universitat Pompeu Fabra; Barcelona Graduate School of Economics (Barcelona GSE); New Economic School (NES)

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Date Written: October 1, 2018

Abstract

Do new communication technologies, such as social media, alleviate the collective action problem? This paper provides evidence that penetration of VK, the dominant Russian online social network, led to more protest activity during a wave of protests in Russia in 2011. As a source of exogenous variation in network penetration, we use information on the city of origin of the students who studied together with the founder of VK, controlling for the city of origin of the students who studied at the same university several years earlier or later. We find that a 10% increase in VK penetration increased the probability of a protest by 4.6%, and the number of protesters by 19%. At the same time, VK penetration increased pro-governmental support, with no evidence of increased polarization. Additional results suggest that social media induced protest activity by reducing the costs of coordination rather than by spreading information critical of the government. We find that cities with higher fractionalization of network users between VK and Facebook experienced fewer protests, and the effect of VK on protests exhibits threshold behavior. Finally, we provide suggestive evidence that municipalities with higher VK penetration received smaller transfers from the central government after the occurrence of protests.

Keywords: social media, political protests, collective action, impact of technology adoption

JEL Classification: D7, H0

Suggested Citation

Enikolopov, Ruben and Makarin, Alexey and Petrova, Maria, Social Media and Protest Participation: Evidence from Russia (October 1, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2696236 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2696236

Ruben Enikolopov (Contact Author)

Institute of Political Economy and Governance ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, 08005
Spain

New Economic School ( email )

Skolkovskoe shosse 45
Moscow, Skolkovo 143026
Russia

ICREA ( email )

Passeig Lluís Companys, 23
Barcelona, 08010
Spain

Universitat Pompeu Fabra ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, E-08005
Spain

Barcelona GSE ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, Barcelona 08005
Spain

Alexey Makarin

Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF)

Via Sallustiana, 62
Rome, Lazio 00187
Italy

Maria Petrova

Institute for Political Economy and Governance, Barcelona ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, 08005
Spain

Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats - ICREA ( email )

Passeig Lluís Companys, 23
Barcelona, 08010
Spain

Universitat Pompeu Fabra ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, E-08005
Spain

Barcelona Graduate School of Economics (Barcelona GSE) ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, Barcelona 08005
Spain

New Economic School (NES) ( email )

100A Novaya Street
Moscow, Skolkovo 143026
Russia

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