NOVAFRICA Seminar “Facebook Causes Protests”

On Wednesday, October 16, at 02.30 pm, the NOVAFRICA Center welcomes Leopoldo Fergusson from Universidad de los Andes, to present his work on the impact of social media on collective action.

Leopoldo Fergusson, Universidad de los Andes.


Internet and social media have been considered crucial determinants of recent political turmoil and protests. To estimate the causal impact of Facebook on collective action for a large set of countries, we use Facebook’s release in a given language as an exogenous source of variation in access to social media where those languages are spoken. Using country, subnational, and individual-level data we show that Facebook had a significant and sizable positive impact on citizen protests. Complementary findings show that these results are not driven by reverse causality or correlated changes in protest reporting. Also, the response to Facebook access is particularly important in countries with pre-existing underlying conditions that facilitate using the technology (more internet access), grievances (economic downturns), few other opportunities to coordinate action against authorities (no freedom of assembly and repression of the opposition), and factors making the country more conflict-prone (natural resource abundance and denser urban populations). It is also more present in countries with either very strong or very weak accountability. Finally, we find that the effect is present for individuals with very different characteristics and we detect no evidence of displacement in other forms of political participation or news consumption.

Find more about this seminar here.