Is the Phone Mightier Than the Sword? Cellphones and Insurgent Violence in Iraq

Jacob N. Shapiro, Nils B. Weidmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Does improved communication provided by modern cellphone technology affect the rise or fall of violence during insurgencies? A priori predictions are ambiguous; introducing cellphones can enhance insurgent communications but can also make it easier for the population to share information with counterinsurgents and creates opportunities for signals intelligence collection. We provide the first systematic micro-level test of the effect of cellphone communication on conflict using data on Iraq's cellphone network (2004-2009) and event data on violence. We show that increased mobile communications reduced insurgent violence in Iraq, both at the district level and for specific local coverage areas. The results provide support for models of insurgency that focus on noncombatants providing information as the key constraint on violent groups and highlight the fact that small changes in the transaction costs of cooperating with the government can have large macro effects on conflict.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-274
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Organization
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 11 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Is the Phone Mightier Than the Sword? Cellphones and Insurgent Violence in Iraq'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this