Communication as Power: Effects of the Internet on Authoritarian Politics in Saudi Arabia

Project: Research project

Project Details


. In a context where media access is not open to all key political players, what effects does a significant change in the communication landscape have on their political power? I address this question by exploring the effects of the Internet on the power balance of ideological elites in Saudi Arabia. I conduct three studies, complementing an already completed work mapping Saudi Arabia’s key political actors. The first study explores the change in media access for Saudi ideological elites caused by the advent of the Internet. The second study links changes in media access to changes in these elites’ abilities in framing public debates around key policy issues. The third study examines if the Internet gave marginalized elite voices a higher ability for self-expression by measuring preference falsification online. In doing so, I draw on traditional as well as digital data, employing various methodological techniques including supervised and unsupervised machine learning, archival research, and descriptive analysis. These studies, together, will empirically demonstrate the degree to which changes in the media sphere can have profound effects on the ideational and political realms of illiberal societies.
Effective start/end date9/15/2012/31/21


  • American Political Science Association (Agmt 10/6/20)
  • National Science Foundation (Agmt 10/6/20)


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