Internet shutdown as a theoretical problem of political science, or what we do (not) understand about network protest mobilization

Internet shutdown as a theoretical problem of political science, or what we do (not) understand about network protest mobilization

Article received: 2023.10.29. Accepted: 2023.12.29

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2024.02.09

For citation:

Akhremenko A.S. Internet shutdown as a theoretical problem of political science, or what we do (not) understand about network protest mobilization. – Polis. Political Studies. 2024. No. 2. P. 118-134. (In Russ.). EDN: CJZFRF

This research is supported by the Russian Science Foundation under grant no. 20-18-00274, https://, HSE University. The author is grateful to his PhD student, Sergey Zheglov, for his valuable assistance in implementing the computational experiment in the Python environment.


The influence of Internet communication on “street” protest activity is the focus of this paper. In recent years, there has been some stagnation in this area of research: a shortage of breakthroughs that would indicate new research directions or at least significantly strengthen the empirical foundation of the already established hypotheses. The paradox is that when considering the impact of the global network on political behavior, the network aspect itself, reflecting the structural characteristics of information exchange, remains on the far periphery of the research field. In this work, we try to partially fill this gap by proposing a set of concepts that, on the one hand, are “rooted” in network analysis, and on the other, reflect the important properties of the interaction of individuals within the framework of online and offline political mobilization. The simultaneous focus on the configuration of networks and the dynamics of participation also determines the approach to building such a theory - formal modeling. A key feature of the model's design is the identification of two structures in the overall communication system: core (strong offline ties) and augmented (core network plus online connections). The constructed model made it possible to strictly define the key concept - the network mobilization capacity, and to test the hypotheses built on its basis. Computational experiments show that the ratio of mobilization capacities of core and augmented networks is a strong predictor of the effect of Internet shutdown. Although specific features of the structure and dynamics of networks, such as the activation of “broker” nodes, are of great importance, the paper also discusses the prospects for empirical operationalization of the concepts proposed by the author. 

political mobilization, political coordination, formal model, agent-based model, Internet shutdown, social media, political protest.


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