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The political and security implications of social media have received considerable attention, but have we really experienced our first ‘Facebook Revolution’ yet? And furthermore, who benefits from social media? Yes, it facilitates political mobilization, particularly in non-democracies, but it’s now being used just as effectively by governments and large corporations that want to preserve the status quo. So, in Tunisia Facebook played a decisive role in revolutionary events, but in China social media continues to prop up an authoritarian state. And in the background, a wider question remains: are we making too much of all this? Didn’t traditional media, such as television, actually play a bigger role in the recent Arab uprisings? The answers to these questions do indeed paint a mixed picture, as we discover this week.

Twitter, Texting and Street Demonstrations

09 Dec 2013 / Article

Has the spread of social media made it easier for groups to mobilize for political purposes? According to Jana Bridwell, there is a connection between the two phenomena. However, its impact is limited to those states where barriers to collective action remain high. More on «Twitter, Texting and Street Demonstrations»

The Battle for Power on the Internet

10 Dec 2013 / Article

While citizen groups and hackers once held the advantage in cyberspace, the balance is now shifting towards the ‘feudal lords of the information age’ - governments and large corporations. This intensifying battle between distributed and institutional power, argues Bruce Schneier, points to big changes ahead. More on «The Battle for Power on the Internet»

Facebook and Public Empowerment in Tunisia

11 Dec 2013 / Article

Was Tunisia’s 2011 uprising a ‘Facebook Revolution’? Absolutely, argues Yousri Marzouki. The cyber-battle won by the activists and Facebook Corporation was critical to the success of the uprising. In fact, Facebook remains embedded in the ‘political unconscious’ of the Tunisian people. More on «Facebook and Public Empowerment in Tunisia»

What the Arab Spring Tells Us About the Future of Social Media in Revolutionary Movements

13 Dec 2013 / Article

Revolutionary movements and insurgencies have benefitted from social media, especially when it comes to recruitment, mobilization and information warfare. But has this media actually made political resistance more effective? Richard Lindsay doesn’t think so – it’s traditional media that still has the upper hand. More on «What the Arab Spring Tells Us About the Future of Social Media in Revolutionary Movements »

Microblogs in China: Bringing the State Back In

12 Dec 2013 / Article

Why have some authoritarian regimes tolerated the spread of new communications technologies? If China is any example, argues Nele Noesselt, it’s because they’re using social media to gauge public opinion, maintain their legitimacy, and avoid having to make serious political reforms. More on «Microblogs in China: Bringing the State Back In»

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