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Alice Mattoni will chair a panel on digital media in anti-corruption from the grassroots

The panel is organized in the framework of the Section Corruption Mechanisms and Anti-Corruption Agenda in the Digital Age: Continuity and Change

28 AUGUST 2020


ECPR General Conference - Online


Civil society and social movement organizations rely more and more on digital media to counter corruption from the grassroots. Either used to sustain massive mobilizations in the streets or to denounce cases of petty corruption in public offices, people employ a wide array of digital media is increasingly to address this contentious issue in several countries across the world. Despite this, we still know little about how struggles against corruption that emerge from the bottom of societies combine with social media platforms, instant messaging applications, data management platforms, and other types of digital media. This panel seeks to understand which are the challenges, opportunities, and outcomes that the use of digital media to counter corruption from the grassroots imply.

It does so by considering, first, the various ways in which activists might use digital media in the framework of grassroots mobilizations against corruption. Activists might embed them in their repertoire of contention, hence using social media platforms as one among the many leverages they use to mobilize supporters and increase their numbers. However, digital media might also become the primary tool around which mobilizations develop, hence taking advantage of their affordances to denounce corruption scandals and prosecute corrupted behaviors, in the attempt to bridge grassroots activists' efforts with those of governmental institutions. Digital media also might become a space in which activists attempt to increase the publics' awareness on the issue of corruption, spreading positive messages on what people might do to counter it and denouncing the corrupted. However, digital media might also be employed in the backstage of anti-corruption efforts, sustaining the organization of collective action and the communicative strategies that activists employ to carry on their collective actions and public protests.

This panel then reflects on how anti-corruption activists and their supporters employ digital media taking into account the affordances of specific digital media, their translation into the world of grassroots opposition to corruption, and their situated nature. Indeed, activists develop their struggles in specific contexts of corruption that might vary to a great extent, according to the country at stake. Furthermore, the type of media environment might also be incredibly diverse, with some digital media being more prominent in some countries than in others. As a consequence, activists and protest participants appropriate digital media and their affordances in different ways and for different reasons according to the context in which they are positioned.

Scholars included in this panel reflect on the intricate relationship between digital media and anti-corruption from the grassroots both theoretically and empirically, through the help of different methodological lenses, examining case studies across the world through a comparative cross-country perspective.