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Facebook Causes Protests

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  • Leopoldo Fergusson
  • Carlos Molina

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Leopoldo Fergusson & Carlos Molina, 2021. "Facebook Causes Protests," Documentos CEDE 18002, Universidad de los Andes, Facultad de Economía, CEDE.
  • Handle: RePEc:col:000089:018002
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    Cited by:

    1. Leonardo Bursztyn & Georgy Egorov & Ruben Enikolopov & Maria Petrova, 2019. "Social Media and Xenophobia: Evidence from Russia," NBER Working Papers 26567, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Andrea Tesei & Filipe Campante & Ruben Durante, 2022. "Media and Social Capital," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 14(1), pages 69-91, August.
    3. Luca Braghieri & Ro'ee Levy & Alexey Makarin, 2022. "Social Media and Mental Health," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 112(11), pages 3660-3693, November.
    4. Thomas Fujiwara & Karsten Müller & Carlo Schwarz, 2021. "The Effect of Social Media on Elections: Evidence from the United States," NBER Working Papers 28849, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Thomas Fujiwara & Karsten Müller & Carlo Schwarz, 2021. "The Effect of Social Media on Elections: Evidence from the United States," NBER Working Papers 28849, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Morales, Juan S., 2021. "Legislating during war: Conflict and politics in Colombia," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 193(C).
    7. Sabatini, Fabio, 2023. "The Behavioral, Economic, and Political Impact of the Internet and Social Media: Empirical Challenges and Approaches," IZA Discussion Papers 16703, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Collective action; Protests; Social media; Facebook;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media
    • D80 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - General

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