Networked Authoritarianism and Social Media in Azerbaijan

Katy Pearce and I have a new article out in the Journal of Communication called “Networked Authoritarianism and Social Media in Azerbaijan”. We wrote about the reaction to the 2009 “donkey blogger” incident, in which activists Adnan Hajizada and Emin Milli were arrested for a satirical video they posted to YouTube. Here is the abstract of our study:

The diffusion of digital media does not always have democratic consequences. This mixed-methods study examines how the government of Azerbaijan dissuaded Internet users from political activism. We examine how digital media were used for networked authoritarianism, a form of Internet control common in former Soviet states where manipulation over digitally mediated social networks is used more than outright censorship. Through a content analysis of 3 years of Azerbaijani media, a 2-year structural equation model of the relationship between Internet use and attitudes toward protest, and interviews with Azerbaijani online activists, we find that the government has successfully dissuaded frequent Internet users from supporting protest and average Internet users from using social media for political purposes.

You can access the full article here.

Update: Radio Free Europe’s Luke Allnutt wrote a great article about our new paper:

The events of the Arab Spring have demonstrated the tremendous power of digital technologies in helping citizens mobilize, chiefly by organizing and documenting the crimes of their states. A fascinating new paper in the “Journal of Communication,” written by Katy E. Pearce from the University of Washington, Seattle and Sarah Kendzior from Washington University, St. Louis, argues that in the case of Azerbaijan the opposite is true, in that “greater documentation and publicizing of suppressed dissent can derail political protest.” In short, diffusion of digital material doesn’t always have democratic consequences.

Allnutt has followed the “donkey blogger” case closely and is an expert on digital media in the former Soviet region. Read his full report here. Thanks, Radio Free Europe!

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5 Responses to Networked Authoritarianism and Social Media in Azerbaijan

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