SOCIAL MEDIA IN VENEZUELA: A TOOL FOR AUTHORITARIANS, A BOOST TO SOCIAL MOVEMENTS, OR BOTH?
Beaton, Amelia C.
Rasmussen, Maria J.
Darnton, Christopher N.
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Various social media platforms have been used as tools by social movements and have propelled democratic ideals. Social media has also been used by autocratic leaders to control and repress populations. Both uses of social media have played a prominent role in Venezuela’s political discourse since 2000. However, while it is clear that social media has played a salient role in Venezuela’s politics, what remains unclear is how effective these platforms are at empowering the social movement sector versus helping authoritarian regimes. The case of Venezuela offers insights useful in this debate because it was one of the first countries in South America to experience democratic backsliding during the digital age. Therefore, this thesis originally sought to answer the following questions: How does social media help the Venezuelan authoritarian regime? How does social media help the social movement sector in Venezuela? How can we measure the impact of these tactics? Does social media help the regime or the social movement sector more? Because of the limited data available in secondary research, it is not possible to directly measure effectiveness. Nevertheless, the analysis did reveal that the regime’s and opposition’s use of social media in Venezuela has augmented their traditional strategies. Understanding which faction it helps more overall will require access to social media databases.
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