Published in the journal Perspectives on Politics this Spring, the article exhaustively examines how autocratic governments are provably currently using social media and divides these uses into four categories:
- Counter-mobilization: coordinating the regime's support base among the general populace
- Discourse framing: shaping the narrative of public discussion
- Preference divulgence: getting people to reveal how they feel about issues so that minor issues can be resolved if they're not against the regime's interests
- Elite coordination: helping central government officials bypass how local elites try to frame themselves and their locales, creating internal transparency for more effective governance
Overall he makes a very firm, well-documented case against those who hold that social media is invariably a tool for democratization.
I recommend it if you're at all interested in the relationship between social media and democracy, which I would consider one of the most defining issues of international politics for this decade and probably the next.
I am strongly inclined to agree with Seva, though as I've covered both elsewhere on Social Calculations and in my recent Foreign Affairs article, I think that the current uses are merely a preamble to how autocracies will truly wield these tools to analyze and preempt dissent, perhaps ultimately molding their societies into hands-off police-states whose resilience is unprecedented.