ICCU – Internet Censorship and Civil Unrest
From the Arab spring to the August 2011 English riots, lively debates have sprung up on the role of the World Wide Web and especially social media (such as Twitter, Facebook, and the popular instant messenger BBM) in fuelling participation. Insight into suitable policy responses is needed, particularly as regards the broader impact of restrictions to access to the Internet, attempted in Egypt and considered – albeit not implemented – in Britain. By interrupting coordination of both unlawful agitation and community pacification efforts, if not even policing, net censorship may change the pattern of violence. The study of the social complexity arising from these intertwining effects and of likely consequences for citizens, businesses and government, is the aim of our research.
Antonio Casilli and I undertook a rapid response study during the UK uprisings, and first released it as a joint blog post. Using computer simulation, we showed that any move by the government to censor social media is likely to result in future civil unrest, higher levels of violence, and shorter periods of social peace. We used our own blogs and microblogging (Twitter) to discuss our results with fellow researchers, journalists, and the international blogosphere, whose insightful comments and suggestions have enabled us to achieve significant progress in a relatively short time, and with a limited database.
A first paper from this project is: Casilli, Antonio A. & Paola Tubaro (2012), Social media censorship in times of political unrest – A social simulation experiment with the UK riots”, Bulletin of Sociological Methodology, 115 (1): 5-20 [published version, temporarily freely accessible; pre-print version].
We envisage extensions and new developments, both empirical and theoretical. We have got a (very) small grant from the University of Greenwich for some preliminary work, and we are looking for funding for expanding it…
Some first results:
- Article in Bulletin of Sociological Methodology (temporarily freely accessible);
- Project’s wiki;
- My talk on BBC Radio 3′s “The Essay” on “Mobs and mobiles”, 4th October 2012, and the written text;
- Blog posts:
- Is a social media-fuelled uprising the worst case scenario? Elements for a sociology of UK riots
- A sociology of UK riots is (already) possible;
- Our work on Internet censorship and UK riots: What people say;
- “Blame it on black culture”: race, ethnicity, and bogus explanations of UKriots;
- Again on online social networks and the UK riots;
- Rethinking Resistance;
- The “dark side” of social media? Some background information
- Working paper (version of 14th August 2011);
- Pre-print article (version of 12th February 2012);
- Model source code (version of June 2012);
- Presentation at the Ecole Doctorale d’Ete Mines-Telecom 2011, Ile de Porquerolles;
- Presentation at the Business Networks seminar, University of Greenwich, November 2011;
- Presentation at the Rethinking Resistance symposium, University of Greenwich, April 2012.
- Press release SAGE publications
- The Daily Mail
- The Times of India
- Science Daily
- Zee News
- Oman Tribune