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When Facebook Is the Internet: The Role of Social Media in Ethnic Conflict

Tuuli Tähtinen

Economics Working Papers from European University Institute

Abstract: This paper investigates whether social media affects the intensity of ethnic conflict. To distinguish the potential effects of social media from those of the broader internet, I focus on the ongoing Myanmar conflict because in such context internetis mainly accessed via Facebook. To identify the causal effect of social media on conflict, I take advantage of a shock in Facebook availability and use local variation in cell phone coverage as an exogenous determinant of social media use. Results indicate that on average social media availability reduced the occurrence of conflict. The analysis, however, reveals important regional differences suggesting that inflammatory content on social media may escalate conflict in areas where ethnic tensions are particularly high.

Keywords: internet; social media; conflict; propaganda; Myanmar; Rohingya (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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