Street politics and social media: BBM and the London contagion effect

Recent waves of unrest in the developed world have had commentators wondering nervously if social media might facilitate the spread of unrest in Athens or Paris or now, New York, just as it did in Tunisia, Egypt and London. This generalisation is likely unfounded, at least in terms of social media’s impact. There are obviously important differences in the solution social media poses to the collective action problem in autocracies and democracies. And apart from extremely important differences in the political context and political goals of each protest, there are differences in the cascade effect facilitated by various forms of social media, meaning ‘social media’ should not be used as a coverall term in this context. For example, the explosive spread of violence in London took security forces by surprise, but this speed has so far not been emulated by protests elsewhere in the West which, like the current Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests, have taken weeks to build. This is arguably Read more [...]
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Indonesia: why Facebook?

What drives Indonesia’s massive growth in social media use, especially Facebook? Indonesia has driven Facebook’s growth rates in the region and is one of Facebook’s top markets worldwide. This isn't necessarily only a function of Indonesia's size: Internet penetration as a whole remains relatively low and broadband speeds are still comparatively slow.  Despite this, Indonesians have been amongst the fastest adopters of Facebook in the world and the fastest in South East Asia. Whilst a small part of the overall Facebook growth story, Indonesia's spectacular growth rate of 645% in 2008 beat India, Malaysia, China and Singapore, put the country at the very forefront of Facebook's expansion into the region.  The question is why.  Some commentators suggest the rise of Facebook in Indonesia is due to its early introduction of more accessible mobile media platforms in a country where the fastest growing user base accesses the net by phone. However, most users in Indonesia still access Read more [...]
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Russia’s Internet: censorship, copyright and cronies

Just as in other BRICs, Internet use in Russia is increasing rapidly, averaging 30% growth per annum.  The country is also experiencing a social media boom – according to some sources, it has the most socially engaged media population on the planet. However, the Russian government’s approach to Internet use by its population is complicated and apparently contradictory. These contradictions revolve around the government’s approach to Internet regulation. On the one hand, censorship is increasing. The most recent Freedom House report suggests that Internet censorship and arrests of bloggers has increased. At least 25 cases of blogger harassment, including 11 arrests, were registered between January 2009 and May 2010, compared with seven in 2006–08, and incidents of content blockage – particularly on a regional level – have increased. Recent reports of attempts to enforce government control of Skype and Gmail confirm this trend. In addition, links between the Russian business/political Read more [...]
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Mexico’s Narcoblog: state failure and information flows

As suggested by recent terrorism charges laid against two citizens warning others about violence in Veracruz via twitter, social media and the Internet are increasingly important as information sources for Mexicans frustrated by an official vacuum regarding the country's ongoing drug war. Key amongst these information sources is anonymous clearinghouse El Blog del Narco, (narcoblog) (warning – graphic images), which publishes images and news items on the nation’s drug war. It claims to be a blank slate, free of journalistic overtones, existing only to equalise the flow of information on Mexico’s increasingly lethal and chaotic drug war. For narcoblog, this means publishing images, videos and text sent by anonymous citizens.  These include images of grisly executions arguably sent by drug cartels as a warning. The anonymity of the posters makes this impossible to verify, but the accompanying text suggests it is the case. The founders of the site claim that their aim is to make Read more [...]
Posted in Aside, Fragile States, IR Theory and the Internet | Tagged , , | 3 Comments


Welcome to Circuit! This blog provides commentary on the Internet and its impact on international politics and the academic discipline of International Relations. In mid-2010, Circuit editors Madeline Carr and Sarah Logan noted a gap in online content examining the impact of the Internet on international politics. It seemed that commentary was commercially oriented, infected with the zeal of either side of the cyber-utopian debate, or focused on cyber security to the exclusion of other issues. Nor was there space for serious discussion of the impact of the Internet on international politics in the context of International Relations. This blog aims to fill those gaps with concise, informed and wide-ranging coverage. It covers issues, raises questions and links academia with policy and politics. We envisage Circuit to be a clearinghouse for ideas, opinion and discussion. Crises come and go and media and academic attention spikes, falls and shifts, but the Internet and international politics Read more [...]
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