With the increasing number of protests mobilised through social networks, the Internet is coming to be seen either as a force of liberation or as the new generation’s “cyber-utopia”, creating unfounded optimism and hopes of emancipation. The former view claims that social networks play a key role in shaping debates about protests and in spreading democratic ideas around the globe (especially in the case of Arab Spring).The latter view advocates that the role of internet has been exaggerated in the narratives of these protests because the very working class which fuelled the revolution did not have access to these technologies. This view suggests that it is not Facebook or Twitter that has brought about these revolutionary changes but other important elements of human life like values, experiences and the political will of people.
The proliferation of access, ease of acquiring a presence, possibility of rational debate along with reasonable outreach makes cyberspace an ideal tool of advocacy. With the increasing number of protests mobilised through social networks, the Internet is coming to be seen either as a force of liberation or as the new generation’s “cyber-utopia”, creating unfounded optimism and hopes of emancipation.
Much research has been conducted on internet activism, its effectiveness or ineffectiveness in mobilizing mass protests, its power in overthrowing the ruling regimes and its role in strengthening participatory processes. The digital media has played a crucial role in planning and executing protests, spreading information about the protests, creating a sense of shared community, forming a “virtual space” beyond the regulation of the state and inspiring viewers with ideas of democracy and liberalism. Therefore, this paper works on the premise that both political will and effective use of media are important in the context of these revolts. However, these virtual networks have not always been successful in bringing about social changes after the protest, especially in issues like freedom of speech or of the press.
Also, while it is easy to conclude that the internet is powerful because it is ubiquitous, unstoppable and implies a certain sense of anonymity or that the internet is powerless because it is ultimately under the regulation of the state, it will be insightful to think of the internet and its power, in relation to the state, its regime type and the political will of the people.
Considering the political climate and the nature of public participation before and after the advent of internet activism, this paper suggests that there is a strong correlation between the nature of the state (comprising of the ideologies of the regime and its people), internet activism and its outcomes.
Drawing from theoretical frameworks and linking it to incidences of digital age protests around the world, this paper argues that the question of internet activism contributing to the evolution of the process of public participation can be...