DIGITAL REPRESSION AND CONFLICT VIOLENCE
Foote, Colin J.
Warren, Timothy C.
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Digital repression of political speech gained prominence during the Arab Spring when governments acknowledged the power of networked collective action. The shutdown strategies that proliferated from the Arab Spring expanded around the globe. Now, almost a decade later, India leads the world in government-mandated digital repression. The rapid expansion of the internet and mobile penetration, combined with long-standing civil unrest, created a volatile issue within India. The use of strategic shutdowns by Indian authorities attempts to contain and reduce the conflict-related violence while limiting collateral economic damage. To investigate such efforts, this thesis examines patterns of civil violence across Indian states in the wake of digital repression events. This research employs both quantitative and qualitative approaches to analyze the relationship between violence and digital shutdowns using data on civil unrest, including protests, riots, military operations, and digital shutdowns in India. The evidence indicates that while the goal of India’s use of strategic shutdowns is to contain and reduce conflict-related violence, strategic shutdowns actually result in increased violence in the days following the shutdown event. These findings indicate that shutting off the internet and cell phone services is not an effective approach to preventing internal violence.
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