The role of social media in mobilizing political protest: evidence from the Tunisian revolution

The role of social media in mobilizing political protest: evidence from the Tunisian revolution

Download PDF 711 KB

Breuer, Anita
Discussion Paper 10/2012

Bonn: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

ISBN: 978-3-88985-553-4
Preis: 6 € (Druckvorlage)

One of the hallmarks of the Tunisian uprising that ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011 was its broad base of support. To the surprise of many Middle East experts who had previously regarded co-opted and quiescent middle classes as the bedrock of stability for authoritarian regimes in the region, the Tunisian revolution rode on the back of a broad coalition of social forces that united an alienated intellectual elite with the rural poor and urban middle classes in opposition to the regime. It is a widely shared assumption that this joining of disparate forces would not have been possible without modern communication technologies and social media. But it is less clear exactly how such social media interacted with other contextual factors to bring about a national protest movement of sufficient proportions to topple an extremely entrenched authoritarian regime. Drawing on evidence from the popular protests in Tunisia between December 2010 and January 2011, expert interviews with Tunisian bloggers, and a web survey conducted among Tunisian Facebook users, this paper argues that social media (1) allowed a “digital elite” to form personal networks and circumvent the national media blackout by brokering information for outside mainstream media; (2) helped to overcome the “free rider” problem of collective action by reporting the magnitude of protest events; and (3) facilitated the formation of a national collective identity which was supportive of protest action and transcended geographical and socio-economic disparities by providing a shared, mobilizingelement of emotional grievance.

Über die Autorin

Breuer, Anita


Anita Breuer

Weitere Expertinnen/Experten zu diesem Thema

Altenburg, Tilman


Figueroa, Aurelia


Furness, Mark


Grävingholt, Jörn


Leininger, Julia


Vidican, Georgeta


Mroß, Karina


Striebinger, Kai


  • Drucken

Aktuelle Publikationen

Emerging powers at the UN: ducking for cover?

Weinlich, Silke
Externe Publikationen, 01.10.2015

Entwicklungspolitik als Antwort auf Sicherheitsprobleme?

Weinlich, Silke / Dennis Michels
Externe Publikationen, 01.10.2015

Paris ante Portas: what to expect from the new climate agreement?

Bauer, Steffen / Clara Brandi
Externe Publikationen, 01.10.2015

Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries

Rippin, Nicole / Niels Keijzer / Markus Loewe / Benjamin Schraven
Mitarbeiter sonstige, 29.09.2015

Die 2030-Agenda ist beschlossen - jetzt wird sie umgesetzt

Scholz, Imme
Die aktuelle Kolumne, 28.09.2015