Social Media Communicative Action and the Interplay with National Security: The Case of Facebook and Political Participation in Zimbabwe
The use of social media in political participation in Zimbabwe became more visible after the much celebrated use of Facebook and Twitter in facilitating the “Arab Spring” as well as other similar uprisings. Resultantly, national security concerns have been raised based on the perceived potential of the new media to coordinate and mobilise users. Motivated by this potential conflict, this study uses Habermas’s theory of communicative action to understand how communicative power and national security laws relate in Zimbabwe. The study draws on content from This Flag’s Facebook page as well as a survey conducted with 124 students from Great Zimbabwe University. The study finds that protest is the most dominant issue discussed. However, the survey shows that the majority of the respondents were unwilling to engage in protests. On the interplay between content and national security, the majority of the content was not in conflict with national security regulations guiding political communication. What is significant to note is that the issues have a short lifespan which potentially renders the platform ineffective to influence policy. Further, the study argues that national security concerns on social media should be understood from the perspective of presence and not frequency of content conflicting with national security.