Politics in the Middle East, like elsewhere, is now cyberpolitics. Young, digitally native populations communicate and socialize online as much or more than they do offline, and so nearly all political acts – finding and distributing information, organizing and documenting meetings and protests, championing or countering a particular cause – are mediated by the internet. However, early narratives of digital liberation have been overtaken by concerns about authoritarian regimes deploying online surveillance and mechanized manipulation against their citizens. Digital infrastructure in the Middle East is rarely the main focus of academic attention. This workshop brings together regional voices, area studies scholars, specialists on social media and disinformation, and relevant policymakers in technology companies and government to explore the cyber element of politics. In particular, we focus on how digital technologies, economies and governance practices shape Middle East politics; and how Middle Eastern regimes are trying to shape and constrain digital expression; and how the dynamics of cyberpolitics in the Middle East compare to other regions and other major authoritarian actors.
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