The CSS Blog Network

Catalonia: Independence from Spain to Do What?

Pro-independence rally on Via Laietana on September 11, 2012. Photo: Lohen11/Wikimedia Commons

On November 25th Catalonians headed to the polls for a snap regional election. The polls were staged just two months after a massive pro-independence rally took place in Barcelona. Voter turnout peaked at almost 70%, the highest in 30 years, and the four political parties committed to holding a referendum on self-determination (CiU-ERC-ICV-CUP) got more than twice as many seats as those defending the status quo (PSC-PP-C). Crucially, both of Catalonia’s major parties – the governing center-right CiU and socialist PSC – suffered severe setbacks.

Accordingly, it appears that Catalonia is now set to hold a referendum on its ties to the rest of Spain, and that it does not trust its major political parties to steer the process. » More

Syrian Rebel Use of Social Media

Image by amnestylondon/Flickr.

The Syrian rebels and their support networks use social media for a variety of purposes including self-promotion, fundraising, directing attacks, and exchanging tactics. While the rebels would still be able to operate in the absence of social media, their financing and combat capabilities would be diminished, as would the influence of some high-profile rebel leaders.


Social media plays a central role in the fundraising efforts of both rebel groups and of Gulf-based private funders such as the Kuwaiti Haia al-Shaabiya l-Daam al-Shaab al-Suri (The Popular Commission to Support the Syrian People). This financial network is run by two young Kuwaiti religious sheikhs, named Hajaj al-Ajmi and Irshid al-Hajri. During a late-May 2012 interview, al-Ajmi discussed his efforts to arm and fund Syrian rebel groups, both in the Free Syrian Army and the Salafist Ahrar al-Sham network. Al-Ajmi emphasized the power of Twitter where, at the time, he had over 42,000 followers, many of whom retweet his religious guidance and appeals for funds. Today, al-Aljmi boasts over 120,000 Twitter followers who receive his tweets encouraging donations. » More

Mumbai Terrorist Executed, But Will it Bring Peace?

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, one of the sites of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Photo: Trakesht/flickr

On November 21, Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, a Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba militant and the only terrorist to be captured alive during the 2008 attack on Mumbai, was executed. The execution came after Indian President Pranab Mukherjee rejected a plea for mercy by the 25 year-old Kasab, a move that marked the end of a lengthy judicial process.

As soon as news broke about the hanging, online reactions poured in fast and furious. The news also rekindled debate about the death penalty in India and whether it was likely to deter or provoke future terrorist attacks.

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), who rose to greater prominence after the Mumbai attack, immediately threatened that there would be more attacks. Pakistan’s Taliban also vowed to attack Indian targets.

B. Raman, a former Indian bureaucrat, commented on the dangers in his blog: » More

Out of the Classroom and Onto the Web

Image by trucolorsfly/Flickr.

Image by trucolorsfly/Flickr.

The Internet and Web 2.0 have enabled students to gain greater and quicker access to ‘International Relations’ (IR) education. Books, courses and information on universities and scholarships are easily available online.

Professor Sanjoy Banerjee, who holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale University and is currently Chair of International Relations at the San Francisco State University, said this when contacted over email:

“The main benefit of technological advances (in ICT), particularly the Internet, is that it makes research much quicker. With search engines like Google Scholar, one can find articles and books on topics far quicker and more efficiently than before. Of course, reading and understanding have not become any easier. Still, my students read much more widely, across more disciplines, than I did as a student.” » More

A Bizarre Power Triangle: Sina, the Government and Chinese Netizens

“Sometimes a penguin’s scarf is not a fashion accessory”[zh] (The figure on the left depicts Sina Weibo, and the penguin represents another microblogging siteTencent.) Image my Flickr user Inmediahk, used under CC BY-NC 2.0

“Sometimes a penguin’s scarf is not a fashion accessory”[zh] (The figure on the left depicts Sina Weibo, and the penguin represents another microblogging site Tencent.) Image uploaded by Flickr user Inmediahk, used under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Before considering the rather bizarre power triangle that has come to define Internet communications and technology in China, it is important to introduce the three characters in this story:

Sina: China’s leading Internet company which is traded on NASDAQ, owns Sino Weibo, the Chinese social network often described as a Twitter-like microblogging site, though it is more like a hybrid. Sina Weibo claims to have more than 300 million registered users.

Chinese government: since the advent of the Internet in China more than a decade ago, the Communist Party (CCP) has both embraced the new technology and issued a number of policies that show its fear of it. With the CCP’s leadership transition [pdf] scheduled for next October, the government has launched special measures to tighten control over social media that highlight this contradiction.

Chinese netizens: love Chinese social networks. Contrary to Western perception, China’s netizens do not appear to miss Facebook, Twitter or YouTube (all three are blocked in China). However, Sina Weibo users get angry when their online activities are disrupted. » More

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