Online Service Providers and the Arab Spring
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The role played by internet and mobile phone services – access providers, social media etc – in the Arab Spring has been much discussed, including in academia. Whether these services were instrumental in the wave of revolutions that took over the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 has been widely studied. However, the question of how the firms behind these services reacted to the events, and why, has not been discussed. What factors explain that Online Service Providers adopted different attitudes to the Arab Spring? Drawing from political risk theory and research on business and peace, I propose a framework to analyse online service providers’ attitude, and factors that might offer an explanation. The study proposes a comparison between four firms’ attitude to the Arab Spring in Egypt, based on the qualitative analysis of their corporate communication. Two firms that did not communicate on the events are also included in the study, to better contrast results. I find that a combination of three factors explains their attitude: well-established corporate social responsibility policies and ethical principles (creed), prior experience of similar conflict abroad and in Egypt, and the combination of little to no assets in Egypt with the support of firms’ home country. The study highlights limits of political risk theory and theory of business and peace, which both rely on the premises that firms are present in country.