Facebook Causes Protests

112 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2020 Last revised: 7 Apr 2021

See all articles by Leopoldo Fergusson

Leopoldo Fergusson

Universidad de los Andes, Colombia - Department of Economics

Carlos Molina

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics, Students

Date Written: December 12, 2019


Using Facebook's release in a given language as an exogenous source of variation in access to social media where the language is spoken, we show that Facebook has had a significant and sizable positive impact on citizen protests. By exploiting variation in a large sample of countries during close to 15 years and combining both aggregate and individual-level data, we confirm the external validity of previous research documenting this effect for specific contexts along a number of dimensions: geographically, by regime type, temporally, and by the socioeconomic characteristics of both countries and social media users. We find that \coordination" effects that rest on the \social" nature of social media play an important role beyond one-way information transmission, including a \liberation effect" produced by having a direct outlet to voice opinions and share them with others. Finally, we explore the broader political consequences of increased Facebook access, helping assess the welfare consequences of the increase in protests. On the negative side, we find no effects on regime change, democratization or governance. To explain this result, we show there are no effects on other political engagements, especially during critical periods, and that social media access also helps mobilize citizens against opposition groups, especially in less democratic areas. On the positive side, we find that Facebook access decreases internal conflict, with evidence that this reflects increased visibility deterring violence and that social media and the resulting protests help voice discontents that might otherwise turn more violent.

Keywords: Collective action, Protests, Social media, Facebook

JEL Classification: D70, L82, D80

Suggested Citation

Fergusson, Leopoldo and Molina, Carlos, Facebook Causes Protests (December 12, 2019). Documento CEDE No. 41, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3553514 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3553514

Leopoldo Fergusson (Contact Author)

Universidad de los Andes, Colombia - Department of Economics ( email )

Carrera 1a No. 18A-10
Santafe de Bogota, AA4976

HOME PAGE: http://www.googlesyndicatedsearch.com/u/uniandes?q=Leopoldo+Fergusson

Carlos Molina

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics, Students ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

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