THE ROLE OF THE INTERNET IN POLITICAL MOBILIZATION

INTRODUCTION

Civic and political participation is an important element of contemporary democracy: it is generally assumed that within a democratic political system citizens should have sufficient opportunities to communicate their preferences toward political decision makers. Of equal importance, however, is the mobilization aspect: citizens have to be mobilized and recruited in order to be able to participate. With the emergence of the Internet, various authors, parties and organizations saw new possibilities for mobilizing citizens. Moreover, many researchers have claimed that the use of this new medium could lead to a more democratic functioning of society.
With the boost and the growing importance of the internet, this medium comes to play an important role in contemporary political communication and campaign. Many political parties, institutions and organizations nowadays invest lots of effort and money to be present online. Parties, candidates and organizations have since a few years a wide range of opportunities to present themselves and campaign online. We may even go further and claim that the boom of new information and communication technologies (ICT’s) have really reshaped current political communication and mobilization strategies.
The first part of this work will look the history of the Internet and internet tools available for political mobilization. It will also look at the concept of political mobilization. The second part of the work will look at theoretical framework to explain the use of the internet for political mobilization. The third part of this work will examine the role of the internet in political mobilization as well as identify the opportunities and challenges of the use of the internet for political mobilization.

AIM OF STUDY
• This work seeks to examine the role of the internet in political mobilization.
• It hopes to identify the opportunities and challenges of the use of the internet for political mobilization.

THE INTERNET
Dynamic web (2008) asserts that during the cold war era the US government had a problem; it worried if it had a nuclear war how was it going to maintain communications? If one city is destroyed on the US eastern seaboard, all communications in the east will be lost. A US military agency called Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was charged with solving the problem. They devised a communication system that would still work if one or more “nodes” of the system were destroyed. A kind of communications web, that if one link of the web was broken, information could flow around the broken link to get to its final destination.
Later, in 1969, ARPA linked university computers and researchers to the network to assist them in conducting basic research through information sharing. This project became known as the ARPAnet. In 1977 ARPAnet engineers realized that the new communications network was going to grow into something much larger than originally anticipated so new communication technology would be required. They devised a communication protocol known as TCP/IP, or transmission control protocol/internet protocol. TCP/IP remains the fundamental way computer file are moved around the Internet today.
Under TCP/IP a file is broken into smaller parts called “packets” by the file server. Each packet is assigned an IP (Internet protocol) address of the computer it has to travel to. As the packet moves through the network it is “switched” by a number of servers along the way toward its destination. The IP address tells those servers which way to switch the packet. Each time the packet is switched a “wrapper” is added to the packet – this way we can tell how many computers and which computer handled the file while it was in transit. In Australia, a file coming from the States can be switched up to 15 times, that is fifteen computers were required to deliver the packet to the destination computer.
The packets do not necessarily travel together on the Internet. Packets from the same file may travel via different paths through different servers, but toward the same destination. Packaging technology allows us to use limited bandwidth most efficiently. It means parts of a file can be shared across a number of phone lines instead of having to find one phone line to put a large file into. In this respect TCP/IP can be liken to a group of 10 hitchhikers (packets) who cannot get a lift all together, but easily get lifts if they break up, going by different cars and maybe by different roads… but agree to meet up at a particular point in the future.
The author further identify that on January 1, 1983, all of the ARPAnet was switched to TCP/IP and became what is now known as the Internet. The US National Science Foundation (NSF) funded most of the early development of the Internet, but on April 30, 1995, the U.S. government released the Internet to commercial networks and service providers and shut down the old National Science Foundation backbone.
In March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) proposed a new set of protocols for Internet information distribution. They were; http (hyper text transfer protocol), ftp (file transfer protocol), pop (post office protocol), smtp (simple mail transfer protocol) and nntp (newsgroups protocol). These five protocols became known as the World Wide Web protocols and the W3 protocols and were soon adopted by the early Internet community. A consortium of organizations was formed to oversee Internet development and became known as the W3 Consortium. No organization or individual owns the Internet.
Before the World Wide Web, the Internet consisted mostly of electronic mail (e-mail), newsgroups and ftp. Tools were invented to help categorize what information could be found and where it was, but the Internet was not what you would call “user friendly”. If you needed a particular computer program or file, it was nearly impossible to find unless you knew exactly where it was.
Today however, we have specific software to address each of the W3 protocols. We have “browsers” to help us locate and look at web pages. We have e-mail clients to help us create, send and receive e-mail. We have newsreaders just to read news, FTP clients just to download program files and chat clients to help us do Internet Relay Chat. Today you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out where to find information and what to do when you get there.
The internet provides communication tools such as websites, emails as well as social media tools which are important communication media for political mobilization. Arthur (2011) explains that the term social media broadly refers to Internet-based tools and services that allow users to engage with each other, generate content, distribute, and search for information online. It is this interactive or collaborative nature of these tools that makes them ‘social’. The interactive nature of these web-based tools marks a paradigmatic shift in web-based communication. In the early developmental stages of the web known as Web 1.0, online information (primarily in text format) was pushed to passive users whose social engagement with it was constrained because of
inherent structural and technological limitations. In the current phase, Web 2.0, web-based tools now facilitate a social connectivity that enables users to produce, interact and share content online. Internet users have thus evolved from consumers of web-based content to ‘prosumers’ who also produce content. This shift has led to the development of many different forms of social media platforms. These web-based tools include Internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, microblogs, wikis, podcasts, photographs, videos, rating and social bookmarking. There are six different categories of social media platforms:
• Collaborative projects (e.g. Wikipedia)• Blogs and microblogs (e.g. Twitter – real-time information networks)• Video content communities (e.g. YouTube)• Social networking sites (e.g. Facebook)• Virtual game worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft) and virtual social worlds (e.g. SecondLife)
• Picture sharing sites (e.g. Flickr)
Victor, Rebecca, and Arthur (2011) explain that Social media refers to a new generation of (Web 2.0) Internet and web-based applications. Web 2.0 applications emphasize the importance of user participation, openness and network effects. Social media aims to use the collective and self-organizing intelligence present in a social network—a network which is open to new participants, and their specific experiences, knowledge, and ideas. Communication within these networks has an instant and many-to-many character, due to the use of instant messaging devices (for example, Facebook, Twitter, and MSN). Furthermore, communication is not restricted to text but also includes video and audio streaming (Stanyer 2009). Finally, wireless technology has resulted in an increased mobility, and instant communication and information retrieval regardless of location. The author identifies the four most widely and effectively used social media which are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogging.
Jessica ,Meredith ,and Mario (2009) explains that Facebook is an online social networking website that lets users interact with each other by sharing information about themselves via personal profiles. Users share their information by “friending” others and allowing them access to their profile. As of mid-2009, Facebook is currently considered the largest online social network with over 200 million active users, surpassing other online social networks such as MySpace, Friendster, and Bebo.
Originally created by several Harvard students in February 2004, Facebook was modeled after paper pages that Harvard circulated profiling staff, faculty, and students.
Facebook originally began as a service only offered to universities, but continually expanded its availability until Facebook allowed global registration in September 2006. Since then, Facebook has grown rapidly, becoming especially popular among younger generations and college students. Although the premise of Facebook rests with sharing information via an online profile that contains basic information about the user, there have been important additions to the site that have fundamentally changed how users interact with others on Facebook.
Facebook introduced the “groups” application in September 2004 as one of its basic features. Groups allows users to share common interests with each other by providing a common space where users can meet others interested in a specific topic, disseminate information about that topic, and have public discussions relevant to that topic. The group application was one of the earliest and still remains one of the most pivotal features contributing to the interactive nature of Facebook. Facebook has also made the wall (where users can post messages on other people’s profiles), notes (where users can share their views with blog-like posts), share (where users can post links to external websites on their profile), and fan pages (where users can show support for a public figure), features enabling users to continually interact with each other.
ii. Twitter
Twitter, launched in 2006, is a “real-time information network that connects you to the latest information about what you find interesting.” Users communicate via “Tweets” which are short posts limited to 140 characters, also allowing for embedded media links. Twitter users can “follow” or essentially subscribe to the updates of other users, some of which include conventional media sources, such as Newsweek or Al-Jazeera, celebrities, and friends. Additionally, tweets can be categorized using “hashtags” which “group posts together by topic or type.”
Molocea (2011) Twitter is today one of the fastest growing, most popular and most used social networks in existence. With a total user database of over 200 million users in March 2011, Twitter has even been nicknamed „the SMS of the Internet” . Being a large online network of users, it’s no wonder that Twitter was cited as having some of the most interesting effects on human lives. These effects of course vary in intensity and coverage, and they range from impacting the love life to the political life. Twitter’s novel functionality is its capability to bring about

iii. YouTube
YouTube was the first website dedicated solely to uploading and sharing personal video. Over 3 billion videos are viewed each day on YouTube, reaching 700 billion playbacks in 2010. As well as uploading and viewing media, users can also leave comments on videos. YouTube is the third most frequented website online.
iv. Weblogs
The final tool of social media this paper will address is weblogs. Briefly defined, weblogs, more commonly referred to as blogs, are “an easy-to-use content management tool. When one ‘blog’ one is instantly adding new content to one’s site via a web interface. No technical or programming skills are necessary.”Blogging requires merely Internet access and typing skills, and these low-cost barriers have led to personal blogs proliferating worldwide.
Politics
Andrew (2010) indentifies that Politics, in its broadest sense, is the activity through which people make, preserve and amend the general rules under which they live. As such, politics is inextricably linked to the phenomena of conflict and cooperation. On the one hand, the existence of rival opinions, different wants, competing needs or opposing interests guarantees disagreement about the rules under which people live. On the other hand, people recognize that in order to influence these rules or ensure that they are upheld, they must work with others. This is why the heart of the politics is often portrayed as a process of conflict-resolution, in which rival views or competing interests are reconciled with one another. However, politics in this broad sense is better thought of as a search for conflict-resolution than as its achievement, since not all conflicts are – or can be – resolved.
Nevertheless, when examined more closely, this broad definition of politics raises as many questions as it answers. For instance, does ‘politics’ refer to a particular way in which rules are made, preserved or amended (that is, peacefully, by debate), or to all such processes? Similarly, is politics practised in all social contexts and institutions, or only in certain ones (that is, government and public life)? There are, in other words, a number of more specific definitions of politics; indeed, it sometimes appears that there are as many definitions as there are authorities willing to offer an opinion on the subject.
Heywood (2010) indentifies that the main definitions nevertheless can be broken down into four categories: politics as the art of government; politics as public affairs; politics as compromise; and politics as power and explains them below. Among the four categories identified, definitions relating to politics as compromise and politics as power will be adopted for this work.
Politics as compromise and consensus
This conception of politics refers not so much to the arena within which politics is conducted as to the way in which decisions are made. Specifically, politics is seen as a particular means of resolving conflict, namely by compromise, conciliation and negotiation, rather than through a resort to force and naked power. This is what is implied when politics is portrayed as ‘the art of the possible’. Such a definition is evident in the everyday use of the term.
The key to politics is therefore a wide dispersal of power. Accepting that conflict is inevitable, Crick argued that when social groups and interests possess power they must be conciliated, they cannot merely be crushed. This is why he portrayed politics as ‘that solution to the problem of order which chooses conciliation rather than violence and coercion’ . Such a view of politics reflects a resolute faith in the efficacy of debate and discussion, as well as the belief that society is characterized by consensus rather than by irreconcilable conflict. In other words, the disagreements that exist can be resolved without a resort to intimidation and violence. Critics, however, point out that Crick’s conception of politics is heavily biased towards the form of politics that takes place in western pluralist democracies; in effect, he equated politics with electoral choice and party competition. As a result, his model has little to tell us about, say, one-party states or military regimes.
Politics as power
This definition of politics is both the broadest and the most radical. Rather than confining politics to a particular sphere – the government, the state or the ‘public’ realm – this sees politics at work in all social activities and in every corner of human existence. As Adrian Leftwich put it: ‘Politics is at the heart of all collective social activity, formal and informal, public and private, in all human groups, institutions and societies’ . In this sense, politics takes place at every level of social interaction; it can be found within families and amongst small groups of friends just as much as within nations and on the global stage. However, what is it that is distinctive about political activity? What marks off politics from any other form of social behaviour?
At its broadest, politics concerns the production, distribution and use of resources in the course of social existence. Politics, in essence, is power: the ability to achieve a desired outcome, through whatever means. This notion was neatly summed up in the title of Harold Lasswell’s book Politics: Who Gets What, When, How?. True, politics is about diversity and conflict, but this is enriched by the existence of scarcity, by the simple fact that while human needs and desires are infinite, the resources available to satisfy them are always limited. Politics is therefore a struggle over scarce resources, and power is the means through which this struggle is conducted.
Advocates of this view of power include feminists and Marxists. Modern feminists have shown particular interest in the idea of ‘the political’. This arises from the fact that conventional definitions of politics effectively exclude women from political life. Women have traditionally been confined to a ‘private’ sphere of existence, centered on the family and domestic responsibilities.
Radical feminists have therefore attacked the ‘public/private’ divide, proclaiming instead that ‘the personal is the political’. This slogan neatly encapsulates the radical feminist belief that what goes on in domestic, family and personal life is intensely political, indeed it is the basis of all other political struggles. Clearly, a more radical notion of politics underlies this position. This was summed up by Kate Millett as, ‘power-structured relationships, arrangements whereby one group of persons is controlled by another’ . Feminists are therefore concerned with ‘the politics of everyday life’. In their view, relationships within the family, between husbands and wives, or between parents and children, are every bit as political as relationships between employers and workers, or between government and citizens.
Marxists have used the term politics in two senses. On one level, Marx used ‘politics’ in a conventional sense to refer to the apparatus of the state. In the Communist Manifesto he thus referred to political power as ‘merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another.
For Marx, politics, together with law and culture, are part of a ‘superstructure’, distinct from the economic ‘base’, which is the real foundation of social life. However, he did not see the economic ‘base’ and the legal and the political ‘superstructure’ as entirely separate, but believed that the ‘superstructure’ arose out of, and reflected, the economic ‘base’. At a deeper level, political power is therefore rooted in the class system; as V. I. Lenin put it: ‘Politics is the most concentrated form of economics’.
Far from believing that politics can be confined to the state and a narrow public sphere, Marxists can be said to believe that ‘the economic is political’. From this perspective, civil society, characterized as Marxists believe it to be by class struggle, is the very heart of politics.
For the purpose of this work, the definitions of politics relating to Politics as compromise and consensus and Politics as power have been adopted as basis for defining politics for this paper.
Political Mobilization
Enjolras, Johnsen and Wollebæk (2011) explain that political mobilization refers to “the process by which candidates, parties, activists, and groups induce other people to participate” in politics “to win elections, to pass bills, to modify rulings, [and] to influence policies” . Political organizations may contact people and provide a specific “opportunity for political action” In most instances; mobilization is a key prerequisite before any participation can occur.
Political mobilization can further be defined as the way in which citizens organize people to put pressure on the political representatives. Thus it could be any sort of movement who in the end results in a change in policy, for example a newspaper writes about malfunctioning within a government; a lot of people read it, and it gets picked up by the politicians who will start working with it, and in the end are able to change the government’s composition. It could be actions such as signing a petition to bring about change in public policy on issues.
Marc, Sara , Dietlind, and Valerie(2010) assert that mobilization is an important precondition for most forms of political participation and engagement: potential participants have to be informed and recruited before they can participate. Rosenstone & Hansen(1993) state that empirical research demonstrates that mobilization and recruitment processes are essential preconditions before citizens can become engaged in any form of civic or political action.
In recent years, these mobilization processes have been transformed rapidly; instead of relying on face-to-face contacts or print media, mobilization agents increasingly have adopted new electronic media and the Internet to reach out to potential participants.
Kateřina (2011) distinguishes between the direct and indirect types of mobilization. Direct mobilization includes canvassing on the streets, TV campaigning, direct mails and phone calls. Indirect mobilization takes place through social networks individuals are embedded to. Citizens are indirectly mobilized by their family members, playmates from their football team or in church they belong to. Involvement in social networks implies that a particular person is available and that s/he is reachable to the request for participation.
Rosenstone & Hansen (2003:25) identify that indirect mobilization occurs from this viewpoint when political leaders contact citizens through social networks of friends, neighbors and colleagues. Social networks in this account are a facilitator of political mobilization. Through the ties of camaraderie, neighborliness, and family, social leaders are able to communicate their messages and to engage people in civic and political action.
The network nature of the internet and combined with the opportunity for collaboration has made internet an important tool for political mobilization. Political and interest group mobilization has also shifted onto the internet. There has been a rise in global political activism, with internet-based mass demonstrations against corporate globalization.
The social media tools made available by the internet enables users to produce interact and share content online. Online social networks are described as websites that are ideal for encouraging interpersonal interaction, broadening social ties, and providing valuable information about how to become civically and politically involved. Current research demonstrates blogging and online social networks have positive relationships with participation in civic organizations.
Theoretical Framework
This paper adopts the Network theory and the Mobilization theory to explain the use of the internet for political mobilization.
The use of social media as an effective vehicle for organization and mobilization can be explained by Manuel Castells’s network theory. The theory can be effectively used to explain how the characteristics of social networks can be valuable for political activism, through the creation of weak ties, the anonymity provided by the Internet, and the egalitarian nature of online communication. “Weak ties are useful in providing information and opening up opportunities at a low cost”. The advantage of the Net is that it allows the forging of weak ties with strangers, in an egalitarian pattern of interaction where social characteristics are less influential in framing, or even blocking communication.
The strength of a tie is based on a “combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding), and the reciprocal services which characterize the tie.” Social media networks are based on these weak ties- acquaintances with other people whom one might share common interests or goals with, or may have mutual friends. The strength in weak ties lies in their ability to introduce us to new ideas and new information, and the Internet allows these ties to be forged with incredible speed over vast geographical barriers.
In his seminal 1973 study entitled “The Strength of Weak Ties,” sociologist Mark Granovetter analysed the link between micro-level interactions and macro-level patterns in social networks, concluding with the strength of weak ties lies in their potential for “diffusion, social mobility, political organization, and social cohesion in general,” across different networks. The advantages of weak ties over strong ties lie in their ability to diffuse information and ideas across social groups.
Granovetter illustrates this theory by using the example of spreading a rumour. If an individual shares a rumour with all of his closest friends (considered strong ties) and those individuals pass the rumour to their close friends, some individuals are likely to hear the rumour multiple times, as “those linked with strong ties tend to share friends.” Thus, the information is contained in one social group. When applied to political mobilization, the same rule applies. For example if the activists organizing the protests in Tahrir Square in Egypt had only spoken to their closest friends or family members, it is unlikely that hundreds of thousands of Egyptians would have shown up on 25 January.
By capitalizing on the weak ties forged online through social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, the activists were able to not only circulate their calls for political mobilization, but began a dialogue that fostered the attitude for political activism in Egyptian communities. A final conclusion of Granovetter’s study that is germane to the Egyptian example is that “weak ties are more likely to link members of different small groups than are strong ones, which tend to be concentrated within particular groups.” Weak ties established online allowed different oppositional factions to connect over a common goal of ousting Mubarak, and to translate this into political mobilization.
THE MOBILIZATION THEORY
Strandberg (2006) identifies that the mobilization theory recapitulates several optimistic visions regarding the internet’s ability to affect citizens’ political activity. The theory states that the internet has the potential to: “inform, organize and engage those who are currently marginalized from the existing political system […] so that these groups will gradually become drawn into public life and civic communities”
Four arguments have been put forward in favour of this view: Firstly, the internet provides ample opportunity for political engagement. Secondly, the relative ease and low costs of receiving information via the internet could reduce the barriers for citizens to learn about public matters. Thirdly, the vast amount of information available on the internet gives citizens opportunities to become more informed about public affairs, and thus more articulate in expressing their views, and more prone to become active concerning public matters. Fourthly, as the internet enables two-way communication, it could strengthen and enhance the links between citizens and intermediary organizations .In sum, the internet constitutes a distinct type of opportunity for political participation which significantly diverges from traditional participation channels.
Lusoli & Ward (2004) identify that the mobilization theory regards the internet as possessing the ability to inform, activate and engage citizens. The political on-line audience has grown considerably over time, largely due to the increased penetration of the medium, and also due to a shift of user preferences in seeking out political information. Scholars have found that the internet is increasingly becoming an especially important source of political information for young people, a group of citizens normally less politically active off-line. Researchers such as Gibson et al.( 2005, 578); (Norris 2003, 39-40) argue that their results indicate that the internet is “offering a space for political engagement among those who might not have been otherwise active”.
Johnson and Kaye(2003) argue though the Web has not yet changed the larger democratic process […] The Web politically empowers individuals and increases their feelings of self efficacy, levels of political involvement, political interest, campaign interest and likelihood of voting.” These scholars place strong faith in the internet’s ability to engage citizens.
A counterargument questioning the optimism of the mobilization proponents has also been identified by some authors. Norris (2001:218-219) calls this the reinforcement theory. According to this line of thought, politics on the net will fail to politically activate and engage citizens. Essentially, this argument rests on two central observations. Firstly, access to the technological resources required to connect to the internet are unevenly divided across the world, and even socio-economically within specific countries. Moreover, and arguably of greater importance in the long run, it has also been argued that on-line politics will only attract citizens already motivated, interested and engaged in off-line politics . All these affect the use of the internet for political mobilization.
INTERNET: A TOOL FOR POLITICAL MOBILIZATION
Song-In (2007) identify that the Internet has become an increasingly important vehicle for political communication. Unlike traditional media (e.g. newspapers and television), the Internet allows its audience to select and choose the extent of their exposure to political information. Its potential for interactivity between audiences and sources, and its wealth of information are all thought to facilitate widespread political change. The Internet’s unique transmission capability has altered the flow of information throughout society and consequently has impacted the political behavior of the general public.
Eva, Marta and Aina (2009) assert that the Internet constitutes a new space for political mobilization. It also allows a much decentralized kind of mobilization because anyone with access to the Internet can send e-mails or write comments on online forums and websites or publish on blogs to motivate people to vote for a certain candidate or to organize inaction or activity. The internet promotes collective identity, the idea that participants are a part of a larger community and that participants share similar concerns, as an advantages of ICTs. This collective identity becomes a driving force to mobilize participants for collective action.
Marcus (2011) asserts that the internet allows for a quasi instantaneous transmission of information and it is free from the typical barriers that confine access to the traditional media. The evolution of the new media during the last decade has made it easy to transmit messages in different formats (text, sound, and image). Furthermore, online communication transcends geographical borders permitting the formation of transnational communities based on shared language, culture, or interests. Due to its network-like and non-hierarchical structure, the internet has been considered as the ideal means of communication for social movements and subaltern groups challenging established power structures.
Marcus (2011) asserts that In Western democracies, it was expected to eradicate the democratic deficits of corporate-dominated media systems, influenced by consumer-culture and intertwined with powerful elites. As for authoritarian systems, the World Wide Web promised not only to undermine the state’s control on information circulation but also to open up new communication channels for suppressed opposition groups and dissidents.
In restricted media environments, online media thus act as forums for voices not necessarily represented in the mass media and take on the form of a subaltern public sphere. By disseminating suppressed information and political critique they bring more transparency into the acts and decisions of the political elite and facilitate the formation of alternative political opinions. Moments of crisis or intensified political conflict, these alternative public spheres can be expanded temporarily through various forms of citizen journalism, i.e. the gathering and distributing of news and information by ordinary citizens, as opposed to professional journalists.
This tendency could be observed during the protests in Iran 2009 and in Burma 2007. Although the authoritarian rulers had blocked the national and foreign news media’s coverage, the demonstrators recorded photos and videos on their mobile phones in order to publish them online, thereby documenting the unfolding events and the violence of the security forces. In Egypt and Tunisia 2011, the exposure of repression through online media resulted in the regimes’ reluctance to squash the protests in order to avoid alienating international public opinion and political allies.
In addition to the disseminating of information, the alternative public spheres on the internet also work as a platform for debate. Weblogs especially produce discussions that, although restricted in their outreach, can achieve a high intensity and quality of deliberation. While it is rare for blogs to succeed in transmitting their topics to the mass media and function as “agenda-setters”, they elaborate on the content of other media acting as an “echo-chamber.”
Marc et al (2010) state that direct face-to-face contact is one of the oldest forms of mobilization, and it is often seen as the effective mobilization mode.
Survey research indicates that direct contact with a candidate or a party official and personalized message have a consistent and strong effect on voter turnout and the decision of the voter.
However, according to results from research carried out by Marc et al (2010), Internet mobilization proved to be at least as effective as face-to-face mobilization. For knowledge, the Internet-based information proved to be significantly more effective than the information that was provided in a face-to-face setting. To summarize their findings, the Internet is at least as successful as traditional face-to-face mobilization efforts, and at least with regard to effectiveness the gradual replacement of face-to-face mobilization by Internet-mediated communication should not be a reason for concern.
While face-to-face mobilization might be successful, the downside of this method from the point of view of the mobilizing agent is that it is a very intensive and time- consuming procedure to reach out to potential participants. As a consequence, parties and social movements tend to limit their mobilization efforts to target audiences for whom they can assume that the likelihood to convince people is much higher (Gerber & Green, 2000). With the emergence of the Internet, various mobilizing agents like political parties and social movement organizations have adopted the new technology as a cost-effective mobilization and information tool.
Mobilizing via the Internet can be extremely low-cost compared with other methods such as face-to-face or telephone contact, given that the marginal cost of sending one more e-mail or subscribing an additional person to a bulletin distribution list is practically zero. Bennett (2003), in particular, suggests that the Internet could be beneficial to resource–poor organizations that do not traditionally have access to mass media outlets. ICTs help reduce the cost of distributing information as well as the cost of participation. ICTs offer inexpensive means to disseminate information via activist organizations’ Web sites.
Marc et al(2010)In advanced industrial societies, the Internet now plays a major role in political communication and various forms of political campaigns; especially with regard to transnational forms of political mobilization, it can be argued that the Internet has dramatically changed preexisting patterns of mobilization and participation .Various authors assume that the use of new technologies could potentially lead to a more intensive and more inclusive form of political communication throughout society (Davis & Owen, 1998). It has also been shown that Internet use is associated with higher levels of political engagement.
Wayne (2000) also asserts that the Internet can impact political activities through mobilization. In fact, the number of grassroots political activists has increased tremendously. t promotes collective identity, the idea that participants are a part of a larger community and that participants share similar concerns, as an advantages of ICTs. This collective identity becomes a driving force to mobilize participants for collective action. Intertwined with the promotion of collective identity, Garrett (2006) mentions that ICTs foster community development. He cites Diani (2000): “new ICTs provide the largely passive support base with a low–intensity forum for issue–based communication.”
Simon (2011) identifies that new social media – YouTube, Twitter, Facebook – along with online bloggers and mobile telephony, all played an important role in communicating, coordinating and channeling this rising tide of opposition and variously managed to bypass state controlled national media as they propelled images and ideas of resistance and mass defiance across the Middle East and North Africa. What was striking about that wave of uprisings was not only the stunning speed of succession across so many countries, but also the different ways in which media and communications had become inextricably infused inside them.
Indeed some have been so bold as to label them as the ‘Twitter Revolutions’ or Facebook Revolutions’ in recognition of the prominent part played by new social media, whether in the co-ordination of mass protests, communication of real-time images and up-to-date information, or processes of contagion across the Arab region.
In the opening months of 2011 the world witnessed a series of tumultuous events in North Africa and the Middle East that soon became known as the Arab uprisings. Mass protests, first in Tunisia, then in Egypt and a succession of other Arab states, including Morocco, Algeria, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain and Libya, as well as Syria, Iran and Lebanon and, more tentatively, Saudi Arabia, all challenged the repressive, anti-democratic nature of these regimes (International Crisis Group, 2011). They called for an end to corruption, improved living conditions, democracy and the protection of human rights.
When Mohammed Bouaziz set fire to himself in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid in December 2010 – a desperate act of defiance following his denied attempts to work as a street vendor to support his family – he lit a flame that soon burned in capitals and cities across much of the Arab world. The scenes of his self-immolation captured by passers-by and posted on YouTube as well as those of the mass protests that followed his funeral, quickly circulated in Tunisia and beyond.
Marcus (2011) identifies that In Egypt; Facebook groups certainly formed a significant force within the anti-regime movements by tapping into existing frustrations about a corrupt and ineffective state and linking them to specific faces or causes. Thus, social media supported the formation of open networks of participants without charismatic figures or central organizations. While the internet and online media allow for a diversification of information landscapes in transition countries, more influences come into play when this intensified information exchange comes to be transformed into political action. By connecting physically distant people social media certainly increase the speed and scope of collective campaigns.
Also, they can amplify the visibility of even small protests by instantaneously transmitting pictures and information. One risk that has been debated in this context is so-called ‘slacktivism’: internet users supporting various causes and campaigns in front of their computers without ever engaging in real political action. Once more, a political culture of civic engagement and resistance to autocratic rule appears as a key factor. In addition, public space as the central stage for collective action is strictly administered in non-democratic states in order to prevent demonstrations and protests.

Authoritarian rulers also obstruct the development of civil society organisations and repress oppositional key-figures or dissidents that could foster the mobilization of challengers. Consequently, social media above all seem to play a role in assembling people for so-called smart- or flash-mobs: rather spontaneous and episodic public appearances of protesters mobilized by mobile phones or social networks. As the increased contact and exchange on the internet involves more people into social or political communities, the number of potential activists who will oppose the most obvious forms of rights violations, injustice, or corruption could also be growing. If organized civil society activism is restricted, new communication technology may thus lead to “an upturn in bottom-up spontaneous protest focusing on specific high-profile issues, local events, and the most visible abuses of power”
Toulba, El-Ammari, Alami, Hasnaoui, and Benjelloun (2012) state Social networks, such as Facebook provide an anonymous space for the protesters to prepare for demonstrations secretly. To sum with the usage of social networks for the purpose of political change, forums and blogs are meant to reform political conscious which is extremely positive for political movements.
The researchers identify that Social media also offer political updates, which are crucial for the mobilization process. Social media play an essential role in updating political events. Political updates mean the latest news about politics; in other words, political updates are the news that everybody would be interested in. It is more practical to know updated news about politics while you are chatting on Facebook than searching and asking for it on the net. A current example would be the Arab spring. Through the website of al Jazeera everyone could have updated news and be constantly aware of what was happening. , Social networks play an important role as channels of political mobilization. As long as social networks provide political updates, people would continuously be up to date, something that would raise their awareness and might lead to political mobilizations.
Social media provide an accurate presentation of the movement. A political movement is a social movement in the area of politics. A political movement may be organized around a single issue or set of issues, or around a set of shared concerns of a social group. Social media enable people to follow a political movement that could be local, regional, national, or international in scope.
Besides, social media provides people with a precise image of the movement that could give them an idea about what happens. Thanks to social media, people could be informed about future political events. It would enable them to have enough time to think and to know whether to follow the mobilization or not. Knowing in advance what would happen leaves plenty of time to people to be convinced and join the mobilization. Therefore, news about upcoming events would definitely lead to a higher number of protesters. Forums enable people to have some discussion about political demonstrations as well as upcoming invents.
Providing an anonymous space refers to the creation of an environment whereas ideas, thoughts and opinions can be expressed anonymously and secretly. In the last two years, this strategy has been used as a key driver to achieve political changes in many regions of the world.
In fact, anonymity allows people to openly express their points of view without being punished or executed for doing that. It also offers an open space for critical debate where arguments are exchanged in a transparent anonymous way without fear of negative consequences. Three main points that can help create an anonymous space.
Toulba, El-Ammari, Alami, Hasnaoui, and Benjelloun (2012) state that the first tactic to use in the creation of an anonymous space is to disseminate information anonymously. This means that people share and scatter information secretly. First a person may receive information from anonymous sources. This same person can disseminate this information in an anonymous fashion without being known. This way, the whole process is secret. The source of the information as well as the actors scattering it are anonymous. This strategy was adopted in the Arab spring revolutions. Many people started using social media such as Facebook to anonymously spread their ideas of creating a revolution that will change the political systems in their countries. Such ideas could not be spread in a successful way without the support of social media.
Second, uprising demonstrations secretly can be a strong point in the creation of an anonymous space. This tactic involves the organization of demonstrations and protests in an anonymous and secret way. This infers that the idea of uprising a demonstration itself remains anonymous. The sources are not known and neither are the actors. The result would be to have a number of people going out on a demonstration that has been organized in a secret way. External entities, such as governments, might not know about it and internal entities shared information about it anonymously.
Third, an anonymous space guarantees that there would be less fear to express political ideas. When a person sharing an idea is not known and is not afraid of punishment, he/she expresses his/her political thoughts openly and sincerely. Secrecy is what eliminates any consideration of fear from telling what people really think. This opens space for a freedom of expression that results in expressing transparent political ideas.

ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS IN ELECTORAL PARTICIPATION
Arthur (2012) asserts Social media have great potential for encouraging collaborative political participation. Accessible social media platforms offer ordinary citizens the opportunity to interact more directly and actively with their political systems. Social media tools also possess the potential to allow diasporas communities to get involved in social-political processes back home. People engage with social media for various reasons but essentially it is all about the human psyche. People use social media to air their views and express (in some cases) anger and dissatisfaction.
Mobilizing citizens to become engaged in politics is about more than getting people out to vote at a poll on Election Day. The time between elections is more important than an actual election. While rallies and marches are one method of mobilization, getting people involved at a more personal level is critical. Political engagement involves educating people about issues, teaching them how to express their opinions and communicate.
Various African political actors engaged in electoral processes are increasingly using social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs in their campaigns. Political parties and independent political advocacy and interest groups have recently used Facebook, Twitter and political blogs as mediating platforms to engage citizens. Similarly, citizens have employed social media to participate in the electoral process.
There are some pertinent examples of social media being widely used across Africa to encourage citizens’ political involvement. It is widely known that running election campaigns through social media platforms is a tactic that has been successfully employed in developed countries.
For example, US President Barack Obama ran a widely popular election campaign in 2008 that employed social media to good effect. In the U.S., the 2008 election of Barack Obama as president reflected unprecedented use of social media in a political campaign. The Obama campaign served as a stunning demonstration of a skilled team’s use of widely available tools. The Obama campaign participated actively in more than 15 social net- works and had 5 million active supporters through these vehicles.
Nigeria
President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria successfully utilized Facebook to engage with Nigerian citizens during the 2011 presidential elections. Jonathan even took the unprecedented decision of announcing his presidential candidacy on Facebook. The bid was announced on 15 September 2010 to his 217 000-plus fans through his Facebook page. By Election Day on 16 April 2011, Jonathan had over half a million followers.
In Nigeria’s electoral process, social media tools were not only employed for political campaigns. Various institutions involved in the elections also conducted their own social media initiatives. Institutions such as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), different political parties, candidates, media houses and civil society groups engaged with citizens on various platforms. During the month-long election process in April 2011, INEC posted almost 4 000 tweets, many in response to voter queries.
A report on the role played by social media platforms during the electoral process revealed that ‘Twitter ultimately proved to be the most efficient way to interact with INECS. Similarly, during the election, Nigerian mainstream media struck a relationship with social media platforms that enhanced both citizens’ participation and professional journalistic practices. Journalists from various media organisations engaged with citizens on Facebook and the citizens’ contributions informed the journalists’ questions during interviews with political players in institutions such as INEC.
SOCIAL MEDIA ENCOURAGES CITIZENS’ ENGAGEMENT WITH POLITICAL ACTORS AND INSTITUTIONS
Social media play a key role in facilitating the interactive relationship between citizens and political representatives. These communication platforms allow citizens to engage with their political leaders at local community, municipal, provincial and national levels. The level of reciprocal communication between representatives of political parties and social media users is still a matter for debate but despite the contestations various political entities variably utilize these platforms to interact with and push information to citizens. It should be noted that this interactivity is the hallmark of social media. Interactivity involves user engagement with information and with other users. These online tools allow people to communicate, collaborate and openly share information, thereby bringing to the fore the power and agency of citizens to make political contributions.

Authur(2012) assets that Social media also possess the potential to facilitate citizens’ engagement with institutions. A pertinent example is the Mzalendo initiative in Kenya that plays the role of watchdog over Kenya’s parliament. Mzalendo has a detailed website that keeps track of the activities of Kenyan MPs. The information on the website is streamlined on the Mzalendo blog http://www.mzalendo.com/blog/, Facebook and Twitter.
The website primarily provides information on parliamentary motions, bills, MPs’ profiles and other parliamentary activities. The platforms used facilitate citizens’ participation through their comments, questions and deliberations on parliamentary activities. There is extensive user engagement on the Mzalendo Facebook page. Users post comments and provide links to news stories relating to parliamentarians. For example, the issue of Kenyan MPs who were refusing to pay taxes generated significant interest on social media, particularly on the Mzalendo Facebook page, where users posted messages in an attempt to pressure the MPs to be accountable and pay their taxes. While it is difficult to quantify or confirm the direct impact of the campaign, these examples of user engagement with social media to contribute to political conversations underline the quintessential role of these communicative tools in facilitating citizens’ political involvement.

CHALLENGES IMPEDING SOCIAL MEDIA USAGE IN AFRICA
Arthur (2012) explains further that although social media provide the potential to facilitate political mobilization, there is a need to be cautiously optimistic in touting this potential, as a number of challenges exist in the context within which the platforms are being used. Various factors impinge on participation depending on the specific context in which the platforms are being utilized. These include countries’ historical experiences, institutional arrangements and socioeconomic and political conditions. These factors have an impact on the nature of the political participation that can be facilitated via social media.
Considering that countries are fundamentally different, a techno-realistic understanding of the relationship between social media and the conditions within which the technology exists is essential. However, inasmuch as the countries’ contexts and specific conditions might be different, the phenomenon of social media distrust by some African governments cuts across the contextual boundaries.
It is also imperative to consider the harsh and often repressive political contexts that impede on citizens’ potential to engage through these communicative tools. The primary challenge facing social-media-mediated participation is the increasing distrust of these platforms by various autocratic regimes. Such regimes have blocked, censored and/or threatened to block or intercept the use of these platforms. Indeed, in addition to these strategies of filtering and regulating online content, some governments have proceeded to impose punitive measures on those ‘guilty’ of contravening the relevant laws.

OTHER CHALLENGES OF THE USE OF THE INTERNET FOR POLITICAL MOBILIZATION
Eva, Marta, and Aina (2010) assert that many authors have shown that access to the Internet is not equal among the population, but is concentrated among young people and more privileged groups– what is known as the digital divide. Some have argued that this leads to an increase in inequality: a concentration of tools in the same pairs of hands. Those who already tend to be active not only have new channels of influence, but also benefit from more requests for participation and other opportunities that the Internet offers. Some authors argue that it is mainly by young people who use the Internet for non-political purposes, and thus does not lead to more political involvement.
In addition, even in the case of access to political information, there is a risk of segmentation, given that the possibility of focusing the selection of subjects to be accessed reduces plurality. The Internet enables individuals with specific interests to select only the information which strengthens their position. This behaviour can polarize opinions about certain social conflicts since it radicalizes attitudes and impedes contact and deliberation between opposing standpoints.
Through the Internet, interactions can be developed anonymously. In fact, this is why the main criticism of new communication patterns lies in the argument of the risk of alienation: individuals can construct alternative virtual lives on the net, which can lead to a sense of disruption or confusion regarding reality.
A false assumption made by cyber-Utopians is to treat the Internet as a universal remedy for all political ills, especially regarding authoritarian regimes. It is important one sees the Internet as a “tool without a handle, “for though it can be seen to possess enormous liberating potential, it is harnessing this potential and translating it into political reality that proves itself to be far harder to accomplish. It is in these situations that context must be considered.
The main thing to keep in mind, though, is that different contexts give rise to different problems and thus are in need of custom-made solutions and strategies. For example when applied to its use as a pro-democracy tool in authoritative states, it is also important to remember that no two states can be expected to react to the Internet in the same manner. “While all un-free societies are alike, each un-free society is un-free in its own way.

Conclusion
The internet has impacted on political communication and has provided a whole effective means for political mobilization. It has given those without access to official media an outlet to mobilize and air their views. Despite the challenges of access to the internet due to connectivity and skills to operate the media especially in developing countries, the internet will increasingly be a veritable vehicle for political mobilization in years to come.

REFERENCES
Arthur C. (2012). Encouraging Political Participation in Africa. Retrieved March 15, 2012, from http://www. http://www.issafrica.org
Andrew H. (2010). Key Concept in Politics. New York: Sage publishers.
Bernard E, Kari Steen J., and Dag .W (2011). How do social media change the conditions for civic and political mobilization? Retrieved November 23, 2011, from http://nrk.no/terrortwitter/
Dynamic web (2008). A Brief History of the Internet. Retrieved March 10, 2012, from http://www.dynamicwebs.com.au/internet
Eva A., Marta C., and Aina G. (2009). Political Participation and the Internet. Information, Communication & Society journal, 12: 6, 860 — 878.
Gibson R. & Ward S. (2005).Virtual Campaigning: Australian Parties and the Impact of the Internet. Australian Journal of Political Science 37(1): 99-129.
Jessica T., Meredith C., and Mario G. (2009). Facebook is… Fostering Political Engagement: A Study of Online Social Networking Groups and Offline Participation. Paper presented at the American Political Science Association meeting in Toronto, Canada, September 2009.
Kateřina V. (2010). Contextual Determinants of Political Participation in Democratic Countries. Paper presented at conference for Research on Nationalism, Ethnicity and Multiculturalism (CRONEM), University of Surrey, Guildford, UK, June 29th-30th, 2010.
Lusoli, W. & Ward J. (2004).Country Report for the Internet and Election project, 2004 European Parliament election UK component., report, Internet and Elections project.
Marcus M. (2011) New media vs. Old politics: the Internet, Social media and Political mobilization. Retrieved March 11, 2012, from http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/iez/08748.pdf
Marc H., Sara V. ,Dietlind S. and Valérie-Anne M.(2010). The Potential of Internet Mobilization. An Experimental Study on the Effect of Internet and Face-to-Face Mobilization Efforts. Philadelphia: Routledge publishing.
Norris, P. (2003). Preaching to the Converted? Pluralism, Participation and Party Websites. Journal of Party Politics 9(1): 21-45.
Norris P. (2001). Digital Divide? Civic Engagement, Information Poverty & the Internet Worldwide. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Rosenstone and Hansen (2003).Recruitment and Political Participation. Retrieved March 12, 2012, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/449241
Song-In W. (2007). Political Use of the Internet, Political Attitudes and Political Participation. Asian Journal of Communication. Vol. 17, No. 4, December 2007, pp. 381-395
Strandberg K. (2006). Parties, Candidates and Citizens Online: Studies of Politics on the Internet. Finland: Åbo Akademi University Press.
Toulba F., El-Ammari A., AlamiI., Hasnaoui N., and Benjelloun A.(2011). Social Networks as a Tool for Social Mobilization to Achieve Political Change. New York: Chatam House, 2012. Print.

Advertisements
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Comments

  • Tshidiso  On August 6, 2012 at 11:54 am

    The internet is very important, i didn’t know such can be found here.

  • Social Engineering  On September 30, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Why users still make use of to read news papers when in this technological world everything is presented on net?

  • wshakespeare07  On January 30, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    Hi! This is really an insightful research. Would you mind telling me the author of this research or if it is you, mind me telling your name? Thanks!

  • quailty  On January 31, 2017 at 7:52 am

    The author is Francis Odinaka. Thanks.

  • wshakespeare07  On January 31, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    I just would like to ask another question. Is this research already published? Or this is still an on–going study? Hoping for your swift reply. Thanks!

    • quailty  On February 1, 2017 at 7:47 am

      It is not an on going study. However, I had incorporated part of it into a new study that was closely related to it. Also it had not been published because I abandoned the study along the way. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: