Conventional wisdom suggests that lapses in media connectivity – for example, disruption of Internet and cell phone access – have a negative effect on political mobilization. I argue that on the contrary, sudden interruption of mass communication accelerates revolutionary mobilization and proliferates decentralized contention. Using a dynamic threshold model for participation in network collective action I demonstrate that full connectivity in a social network can hinder revolutionary action. I exploit a decision by Mubarak’s regime to disrupt the Internet and mobile communication during the 2011 Egyptian uprising to provide an empirical proof for the hypothesis. A difference-in difference inference strategy reveals the impact of media disruption on the dispersion of the protests. The evidence is corroborated using historical, anecdotal, and statistical accounts.
Higher School of Economics
Date of Publication
Hassanpour, Navid, Media Disruption Exacerbates Revolutionary Unrest: Evidence from Mubarak’s Quasi-Experiment (2011).