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This article examines two historically distinct understandings of privacy and their relationship to online protest. Using a contemporary view of privacy, which focuses on information secrecy and disclosure, the author examined the development of ‘private protest’ in which both the identities of protesters and even the number of participants are concealed. Empirically, she traced this by tracking both the percentage of protest-related websites that include privacy policies and the percentage of online protest actions that report or estimate participation figures. Using a much older view of privacy, which focuses on controlled access to private property, she examined the implications of online protest occurring on private servers (e.g. Facebook, YouTube). Offline protesters have increasingly had to choose between protesting in venues that enjoy substantial free speech protections or protesting in venues where large numbers of people gather; she argued that online protesters face a similar dilemma but with less recourse to protesting in legally protected spaces. By examining both definitions of privacy, this article offers a rich understanding of the privacy dilemmas facing online protest organizers and participants.
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Keywords: Internet; privacy; private property; protest; social media; social movements

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology,University of Arizona, Room 421Tucson,AZ,85721-0027, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2012

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