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Is Telegram a “harbinger of freedom”? The performance, practices, and perception of platforms as political actors in authoritarian states

Wijermars, Mariëlle orcid logoORCID: 0000-0001-7735-4403 and Lokot, Tetyana orcid logoORCID: 0000-0002-2488-4045 (2022) Is Telegram a “harbinger of freedom”? The performance, practices, and perception of platforms as political actors in authoritarian states. Post-Soviet Affairs . ISSN 1060-586X

This paper examines the practices, performance, and perceptions of the messaging platform Telegram as an actor in the 2020 Belarus protests, using publicly available data from Telegram’s public statements, protest-related Telegram groups, and media coverage. Developing a novel conceptualization of platform actorness, we critically assess Telegram’s role in the protests and examine whether Telegram is seen as playing an active role in Belarusian contentious politics. We find that Telegram’s performance and practices drive citizens to form affective connections to the platform and to perceive Telegram as an ally in their struggle against repressions and digital censorship. Meanwhile, the Belarusian state uses Telegram’s aversion to censorship and content moderation to intervene in contentious politics by co-opting grassroots approaches and mimicking manipulative efforts of other authoritarian regimes. Our conceptual framework is applicable to post-Soviet authoritarian contexts, but can also serve as a useful heuristic for analyzing platform actorness in other regime types.
Item Type:Article (Published)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Telegram; platform actorness; platform governance; Belarus; protests; authoritarianism
Subjects:Computer Science > World Wide Web
Social Sciences > Communication
Social Sciences > Mass media
Social Sciences > Political science
DCU Faculties and Centres:DCU Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Science > School of Communications
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
Official URL:https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1060586X.2022.2030645
Copyright Information:© 2022 The Authors. Open Access (CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0) which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
ID Code:26764
Deposited On:14 Mar 2022 10:54 by Tetyana Lokot . Last Modified 14 Mar 2022 10:54

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