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Launching Revolution: Social Media and the Egyptian Uprising’s First Movers

  • Killian Clarke (a1) and Korhan Kocak (a1)

Drawing on evidence from the 2011 Egyptian uprising, this article demonstrates how the use of two social media platforms – Facebook and Twitter – contributed to a discrete mobilizational outcome: the staging of a successful first protest in a revolutionary cascade, referred to here as ‘first-mover mobilization’. Specifically, it argues that these two platforms facilitated the staging of a large, nationwide and seemingly leaderless protest on 25 January 2011, which signaled to hesitant but sympathetic Egyptians that a revolution might be in the making. It draws on qualitative and quantitative evidence, including interviews, social media data and surveys, to analyze three mechanisms that linked these platforms to the success of the January 25 protest: (1) protester recruitment, (2) protest planning and coordination, and (3) live updating about protest logistics. The article not only contributes to debates about the role of the Internet in the Arab Spring and other recent waves of mobilization, but also demonstrates how scholarship on the Internet in politics might move toward making more discrete, empirically grounded causal claims.

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