Joyce Y.M. Nip
Social movement organizations have employed the internet to a high degree. Hundreds of social movement organizations network with each other by email lists. Many also have websites and electronic bulletin boards or other conferencing spaces on the internet where users can interact directly with each other. For social movements, which typically have limited membership and financial resources, 'the Internet is revolutionizing the rule of the game' (Leizerov 2000:462). The Zapatista movement in Southern Mexico, which first clashed with the Mexican government in 1993 and which Manuel Castells called 'the first informational guerrilla movement' (1997:79), owed much of its success to its communication strategy (Castells 1997; see below). In the campaign against antipersonnel landmines in the 1990s, 'the global web of electronic media, including telecommunications, fax machines, and especially the internet and the world wide web, have played an unprecedented role in facilitating a global network of concerned supporters around the issue' (Price 1998:625; see below). Almost everyone directly involved in the campaign against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, the antecedent of the anti-WTO globalization campaign, agreed that the internet was vital to the success of the campaign (Deibert 2000; see below).
Little is known about the different ways in which the internet may help social movement mobilization, but studies have highlighted two functions of the net: first, it helps communication in information dissemination, formal networking, and action coordination; second, it helps in building a collective identity among participants and potential participants of the movement. This study seeks to examine the identity-building capacity of the internet in social movements.