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Social Media: New Spaces for Contention In Authoritarian Systems

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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What role has social media played in Bahraini political movements since 2011 Does it facilitate and encourage a space for free expressions of ideas, or do the dominant groups utilize social media to promote their agendas and shape social unrest outcomes This thesis examines how the use of social media altered the course of protests in Bahrain on the heels of the regional Arab Spring movement. Historical protest activities incorporated the free space social media offered to offset the effects of government control and intimidation. This change resulted in a level of prolonged protests and violence never before seen in the country, where the momentum for change hung in the balance between protesters and an authoritarian regime. Social media played a role not only in organization and mobilization of the protests but also in the shaping of international opinion of the growing conflict. In the end, government and protesters alike used social media to further their agendas and minimize the effects of the others.

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