Aditya Kuvalekar fron the University of Essex will present/ Title: #Protest, joint with Deepal Basak and Joyee Deb.


Abstract: Casual observation suggests that social media can have an important impact on political activism: Increased connectedness via social media means that even dispersed groups see more similar information, allowing them to get united and mobilized towards a shared goal. This paper presents a natural model of a protest game, in which different groups of agents must strategically decide whether to engage in a mass protest against a regime. There is incomplete information about the desirability of the regime change, and groups receive private signals about the regime. Protesting is costly, but a minimum number of protestors is required to make a protest successful. Further, there is uncertainty about the population size. In such a setting, we examine the role of increased interdependence of information on the size of mass protests. We show that when there is strategic uncertainty (uncertainty about whether agents from other groups will turn up to protest), increased interdependence of information can have two opposing effects: On the one hand, similarity of information can help coordination by mitigating this strategic uncertainty.  On the other hand, it can exacerbate the incentive to free-ride. We propose a natural order of interdependence of information structures and use it to provide a simple characterization of when increased interdependence increases or reduces the size of mass protests.

In particular, we show that interdependence is unambiguously good (bad) when the resilience of the regime (measured by the number of protesters required for successful protest) is high (low) enough.