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Pulling the plug: Network disruptions and violence in civil conflict

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- Enablers
- Challenges
- Outcomes and Impacts
- Trends

- Internet for Democracy
- Internet Or Digital Rights and Freedoms
- Internet Safety

Author(s): Anita R Gohdes

The paper argue that governments have a strategic incentive to implement internet blackouts in conjunction with larger repressive operations against violent opposition forces. Short-term intermissions in communication channels are expected to decrease opposition groups’ capabilities to successfully coordinate and implement attacks against the state, allowing regime forces to strengthen their position. I find that blackouts occur in conjunction with significantly higher levels of state repression, most notably in areas where government forces are actively fighting violent opposition groups. In addition, I estimate the number of undocumented conflict fatalities prior to and during network blackouts to test whether they are implemented to hide atrocities from outside observers, and find no support for this hypothesis. The results indicate that such network blackouts constitute a part of the military’s strategy to target and weaken opposition groups, where the underreporting of violence is not systematically linked to outages.


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