24 November 2020

Research pick: Social media and Sudan - "The impact of social media on Sudan’s uprising behaviour"

The received wisdom is that the advent of social media has changed our lives significantly, it affects many aspects of business, entertainment, sport, and day to day living. But, according to researchers in the USA writing in the International Journal of Business Forecasting and Marketing Intelligence little research has been done to investigate its role on behavioural and political change. They hope to remedy that situation in the context of the impact of social media on the citizens of Sudan in their seeking civil government and the ensuing uprising.

The Sudanese Revolution led to the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir after thirty years in power in April 2019 following widespread street protests in December 2018 and months of sustained civil disobedience. Ashraf Attia, Merve Yanar Gürce, Rana Fakhr, and Barry Friedman of the State University of New York at Oswego, USA, explain how social media is used by billions of people and that its platforms, most famously Facebook and Twitter have influenced our lives and perhaps even the results of elections and referenda. These tools provide an immediacy in political events from France to the USA, India to Iran, and Nigeria to Malaysia, and many other places besides.

The team suggests that platforms allow people to encourage others to participate in mass demonstrations through the creation of an organic group solidarity. Protestors can mobilize themselves with the help of social media platforms and build a voice that is louder and heard that might ultimately change a government stance or even change the whole government.

In the years before the Sudanese Revolution and coup d’état, economic conditions worsened, food prices escalated, and unemployment among the young increased enormously. Thus a thirst for freedom, democracy, and social justice arose. Social media facilitated the spread of the revolutionary urge and the information that brought together otherwise independent professional unions, rebel groups, and civil opponents with members from diverse race, religious, and ethnic groups. Importantly, it is well known that most of the protestors (80%) were young and 70% of those young people were women.

Attia, A.M., Gürce, M.Y., Fakhr, R.A. and Friedman, B. (2020) ‘The impact of social media on Sudan’s uprising behaviour’, Int. J. Business Forecasting and Marketing Intelligence, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp.186–203.

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