Research Articles

Social Media, Surveillance and Social Control in the Bahrain Uprising



Marc Owen Jones began his PhD at the University of Durham in 2011 after securing a studentship from the North East Doctoral Training Centre. He worked briefly as a graduate research assistant at Leicester University following the completion of an MSc in Arab World Studies from Durham University in 2010. This two-year MSc was funded by the Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World and involved a year of intense Arabic tuition at both the Universities of Edinburgh and Damascus. He received his BA in Journalism, Film and Broadcasting from Cardiff University in 2006 before spending a year in Sudan teaching English. He tweets and blogs regularly on Bahrain and his research interests include critical security surveillance, cultural geography, public space, social justice, systemic control, policing and social media.
This is a study of how the Bahraini regime and its supporters utilized Facebook, Twitter and other social media as a tool of surveillance and social control during the Bahrain uprising. Using a virtual ethnography conducted between February 2011 and December 2011, it establishes a typology of methods that describe how hegemonic forces and institutions employed social media to suppress both online and offline dissent. These methods are trolling, naming and shaming, offline factors, intelligence gathering and passive observation. It also discusses how these methods of control limit the ability of activists to use online places as spaces of representation and anti-hegemonic identity formation. While there is considerable research on the positive role social media plays in activism, this article addresses the relative paucity of literature on how hegemonic forces use social media to resist political change.

Keywords: Syria, social networking sites, social media, semi-published, revolt, radical alternative media, media

How to Cite: Owen Jones, M. (2017) “Social Media, Surveillance and Social Control in the Bahrain Uprising”, Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture. 9(2). doi: