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A Manifesto, in 140 Characters or Fewer: Social Media as a Tool of Rebel Diplomacy

Abstract

Can rebel organizations in a civil conflict use social media to garner international support? This article argues that the use of social media is a unique form of public diplomacy through which rebels project a favorable image to gain that support. It analyzes the Libyan civil war, during which rebels invested considerable resources in diplomatic efforts to gain US support. The study entails collecting original data, and finds that rebel public diplomacy via Twitter increases co-operation with the rebels when their message (1) clarifies the type of regime they intend to create and (2) emphasizes the atrocities perpetrated by the government. Providing rebels with an important tool of image projection, social media can affect dynamics in an ever more connected international arena.

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Department of Political Science, University of Mississippi (email: btjones1@olemiss.edu); Department of Political Science, Amherst College (email: emattiacci@amherst.edu). Author names appear in alphabetical order; the authors contributed equally to the process. Previous versions of this article benefited from presentations at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, Illinois. We would also like to thank Susan Allen, Bear Braumoeller, Jeff Carter, Bridget Coggins, Michael Colaresi, Matthew DiGiuseppe, Rex Douglas, Tanisha Fazal, Reyko Huang, Hyeran Jo, Morgan Kaplan, Joshua Kertzer, Joakim Kreutz, Irfan Nooruddin, Tim Nordstrom, Jonathan Obert, Heather Ondercin, Jon Western, Thomas Zeitzoff, the editor and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. Data replication sets are available at http://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataverse/BJPolS and online appendices are available at https://doi.org/doi:10.1017/S0007123416000612.

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
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