Social Media and Authoritarianism

21 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2016

Date Written: July 22, 2015


An analysis of the purported potential of social media as a democracy catalyzer is performed, paying attention to its role during the Iranian Protests and the Arab Spring. Then, the different ways in which authoritarian regimes can tamper social are explored.

Social media is not a democratization force and authoritarian regimes can exploit it to their advantage. Moreover, there is a trend towards authoritarianism with regards to social media in a number of countries including Western democracies.

This paper dispels the idea that social media may be a democratization catalyzer and shows that, instead, social media is considered a problem by many countries including full democracies. I argue that the combination of war on terror, economic crisis, contentious politics and populism bodes badly for liberal democracies with social media regulation being an early advice of future democratic erosions.

Keywords: social media, authoritarian regimes, networked authoritarianism, repression, monitoring, democracy, war on terror

JEL Classification: Y4, Y8

Suggested Citation

Gayo-Avello, Daniel, Social Media and Authoritarianism (July 22, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Daniel Gayo-Avello (Contact Author)

University of Oviedo ( email )

Escuela Universitaria Jovellanos
Francisco Tomas y Valiente 1 33201 Gijon
Oviedo, 33006

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