How Exile Shapes Online Opposition: Evidence from Venezuela
Speaker: Alexandra Siegel (University of Colorado Boulder)
Wednesday, November 2, 14:00–14:45 (Irish time)
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Abstract: How does exile affect online dissent? We argue that exile not only fragments opposition movements but fundamentally alters how they express opposition by internationalizing their networks and removing them from day-to-day life under the regime. Providing the first large-scale, quantitative study of the effects of exile on online dissent, we show that after exile Venezuelan activists 1) increase discussion of and support for foreign-led solutions to Venezuela's political and economic crisis---including military intervention, sanctions, and diplomacy; 2) decrease discussion of local political dynamics; and 3) express harsher criticisms of the Maduro regime. Our analysis of over 5 million tweets sent by 357 activists over seven years suggests that the internationalization of networks is one mechanism by which exile shapes how activists communicate. After exile, activists increase their interactions with foreign entities and international actors and tweet in English at higher rates. Providing temporally granular individual-level measures of activists' behavior, this work contributes to our understanding of the relationship between exile---one of the most ubiquitous yet understudied forms of repression---and dissent in the digital age.
About the speaker: Alexandra Siegel is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is also a nonresident fellow at Brookings in the Center for Middle East Policy and the Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative, as well as a faculty affiliate at Stanford’s Immigration Policy Lab (IPL) and New York University’s Center for Social Media and Politics (CSMaP). Her research uses original datasets of hundreds of millions of social media posts, text and network analysis, machine learning methods, and experiments to study mass and elite political behavior in the Arab World and other comparative contexts.