Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as Oppressors of Social Movements: A Power Perspective

Evronia Azer, Yingqin Zheng, G. Harindranath

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding

Abstract

While the literature discusses ICTs as enablers of activism, this paper stresses the need to look at the holistic context that is dangerous and risky, because of ICTs too. It is a product of 30 semi-structured interviews with grassroots non-hierarchical human rights groups that operated in Egypt before 2015 but no longer do because of oppression and how it affected them physically and psychologically. The value that ICTs have afforded to these groups’ organisation and mobilisation is huge, as they have used ICTs to organise their work and disseminate news about human rights violations worldwide. However, this cannot be viewed in isolation from the risk of surveillance and how it affects the groups. The oppression of social movements raises the question of how surveillance makes ICTs work against collective action, and threatens activists’ lives (Hier & Greenberg, 2009; della Porta, 2013; Hosein & Nyst, 2013). ICTs created even more ways for authoritarian regimes to watch over activists, who rely largely on ICTs to organise their work and communicate. It can be argued that the asymmetry of visibility (Brighenti, 2010) is one result of the advancements in ICTs that directly affected activists’ mental health by creating an anxiety among them, not knowing when and how they are being watched. This asymmetry has also endangered activists’ lives, because if they are unaware of being under surveillance and take noprecautionary measures, they are an easy target for state oppression (Azer et al., 2018, 2019).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research
PublisherAoIR
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020
Event21st Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers - Virtual event
Duration: 27 Oct 202031 Oct 2020

Conference

Conference21st Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers
Abbreviated titleAoIR2020
Period27/10/2031/10/20

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