Feminine Online Social Networks and the Diffusion of Information: Minbar Chat and the Sudanese Revolution


Social media platforms have enabled rapid communications by citizen movements and delivery of the local information to a large audience (Sandoval-Almazan & Gil-Garcia, 2014 p. 367). They amplify message delivery and resonance in existing online and offline social networks. This has been particularly helpful for social movements and collective action by individuals.

The December 2019 Revolution in Sudan, that successfully ousted Omar al-Bashir’s thirty-year regime, was strongly propelled by online activists especially women’s groups on social media platforms. Minbar Chat (The Chat Forum) a leading women’s group on Facebook used this alternative space to document police brutality on demonstrators as well as identify undercover intelligence officers.

Scholars have long argued that media is of critical importance to social movements (see Wright, 2001; Butsch, 2007; Lim, 2012). The new media ecology and its participatory nature further enhances the role of media in collective action. Gamson and Wolfsfeld (1993) described three major purposes of media in social movements: mobilization, validation, and scope enlargement.

Mobilization is the mainstreaming of information to reach non-members of a movement or cause. Traditionally mainstream media served as the main conduit for information. Now social media platforms provide that reach and act as amplifiers of the message bypassing traditional channels. Internet-based social networks have allowed different groups to communicate, share tactical information, and collaborate on overlapping issues.

Validation is when the general public views movements and activists as legitimate players in the public sphere. Previously, this validation was granted through news frames deployed by mainstream media regarding a given group or set of activists. Activists and social movements no longer need the media’s blessing to be seen as legitimate. They can and have achieved this internally within their own online networks and in turn force mainstream media to frame them as legitimate (Carney, 2016). Minbar Chat
became a credible source of information for activists and demonstrators. While the group maintained a female only membership, its messages were shared freely across other Facebook groups and Twitter.

Scope enlargement is the broadening an issue base and/or a social movement’s number of supporters. Historically, social movements relied heavily on mainstream media to disseminate information to existing and potential supporters. Now social media platforms enable movements to bypass traditional media when disseminating information. Minbar Chat’s Facebook posts went viral among Sudanese netizens widening the base of supporters for the Revolution.

The following research examines Minbar Chat’s effect/s on mobilization, validation, and scope enlargement of a popular citizen uprising in the Sudan. The study analyzes the role played by online and offline social networks in relation to engagement in civic activities and enhancement of citizen communication networks especially among Sudanese females.