Social Media Disruption: Nigeria’s WhatsApp Politics

Issue Date July 2020
Volume 31
Issue 3
Page Numbers 145-59
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How are social media and digital technology shaping elections? This question is more important than ever, yet few studies look at WhatsApp’s impact on the political landscape—even in Africa, where it is the dominant messaging platform. This article combines a case study of Nigeria’s 2019 elections with surveys and analysis from Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, and Sierra Leone to show how social media are used by parties, candidates and voters. We conclude that WhatsApp is a disruptive technology that challenges existing hierarchies in ways that are simultaneously emancipatory and destructive, strengthening and undermining democratic consolidation at the same time.

About the Authors

Nic Cheeseman

Nic Cheeseman is professor of democracy and international development at the University of Birmingham.

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Jonathan Fisher

Jonathan Fisher is reader in African politics and director of the International Development Department at the University of Birmingham.

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Idayat Hassan

Idayat Hassan is director of the Centre for Democracy and Development in Abuja.

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Jamie Hitchen

Jamie Hitchen is an independent researcher.

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