The use of the Internet for political action by non-state dissident actors in the Middle East

W. McLaughlin


This paper examines how non-state dissident actors in the Middle East use the Internet for political action in the face of state-imposed constraints on Internet access. Non-state dissident actors have revisionist goals and the Internet offers certain advantages for accomplishing these political objectives. States seek to limit the effectiveness of these dissident objectives and can use various methods, such as limiting Internet infrastructure or imposing censorship constraints, in efforts to oppose Internet-based dissidence. In response, dedicated dissidents can find ways to overcome these state-imposed constraints and continue with their dissident activities. Based on this understanding, this paper develops a dynamic model for Internet-based dissidence and then applies it to three different case studies: The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia (MIRA). All three case study groups used the Internet in a surprisingly competent and sophisticated manner, overcoming the various state-imposed constraints on their activities. That non-state dissidents in the Middle East have successfully used the Internet for political dissidence may have important implications for the political landscape in the region.

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