We all know what Social Media is. We all know what Activsim is. If not, here’s the definition. So, Social Media Activism - use of social media to campaign for social or political change…. TO BRING ABOUT CHANGE!!! Thats the key here. Like the man say’s ….
Images taken from: http://maziermedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/SocialMediaIconcollage.png
Straight away lets have a quiz with the class Arab Spring. Iran 2009 Wikileaks Ireland gay Marraige Referendum Reddit International modern media institute occupy wall street Scottish Independence Belfast Flags!!! And now most impirtant of all…. MANSPREADING
Define social media activism.
It must have a (worthy) cause
It must use a social media platform to champion that cause.
● Controversy around social media activism.
○ “Case for” V “Case Against” …
○ Some very notable critics - Gladwell (New Yorker 2010)
● Try to identify common themes.
● Ultimately: Can we measure the effectiveness of Social Media Activism?
● Look at some examples of social media activism. Specifically, in terms of:
o The “causes” themselves.
o The social media platforms used.
o In some cases the organisations behind these causes.
● How successful were each of the these campaigns?
#iranelection - the Green Revolution
● 2009 - the year of the Twitter revolution.
● Moldova then Iran - mass protests in response an apparently rigged election.
● Twitter/Facebook played a role in mobilizing & reporting.
● 2 million tweets. Difficult to measure success. But:
● Iranian govt tried to block Twitter & Facebook before the election speaks
● US State Dept asked Twitter to stay up during the election.
● But at the end of the day:
○ Ahmadinejad government stayed in power for another 3 year.
○ There was much bloodshed.
● SUCCESS - OR NOT?
● I depends what you are trying to measure...
‘Arab Spring’ - Social Media Revolutions?
● Gladwell: people cause revolutions and revolutions pre-date social media,
social media had no significant role in effecting real social change
● Stepanova: social media only a catalyst for pre-existing underlying political
discontent with the Mubarak regime in Egypt, which would have manifested
● Howard et al: social media had a significant role in shaping political debates,
as evidenced by their study’s quantitative analysis of Facebook posts, Tweets
etc. which demonstrated a peak in anti-establishment discourse online was
followed by protests on the ground.
‘Arab Spring’ = Social Media Activism?
● Many countries, platforms and varying conditions
○ Tunisia: primarily Facebook used by regime opponents (2 million users)
○ Egypt: both Facebook and Twitter used
● Visibility and power and numbers of the ‘crowd’
○ Self-immolation action by Mohammed Bouazizi got global attention due to Facebook
○ Second attempt by Tunisian Ben Ali regime to remove Facebook access faltered due to fears of
increased negative consequences arising from its removal - a tipping point reached
○ Followed by general internet shut down - acts of desperation by a regime with fewer options
● There was more to it than Social Media activism alone
○ Some revolutions continued offline when internet and 3G access was shut down by the authorities
(e.g. Egypt), but momentum of social media campaigns maintained
○ Mosque debates, mobile phones (calls/SMS), Al Jazeera TV also fuelling debate
Longer Term Initiatives
● An encouraging longer term consequence of the ‘Arab Spring’:
○ international NGO involvement in attempts to enshrine freedom of expression in internet content
access laws in Tunisia, where the Electronic Frontier Foundation has assisted Tunisia’s draft
internet laws, although challenges remain (Hintz, 2011).
● An initiative with potentially global a far-reaching consequences:
○ International Modern Media Initiative, originally the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative
○ Founded in response to:
■ WikiLeaks exposure of financial malpractice in Icelandic banks during the ‘credit crunch’
■ And Kaupthing bank’s legal injunction to prevent TV news coverage of the leak
■ National Icelandic broadcaster RUV broadcast a link to the WikiLeaks site instead!
○ International Modern Media Initiative, the Icelandic Pirate Party and Icelanders working to make
Iceland the first safe haven in the world for journalists (global transparency)
The Power of Social Media
Social Media gave people the power to voice their anger at
what they deemed to be the 1% of the population that had
all the power and wealth.
The organisers of the movement used the popularity of Social
Media to advertise their movement and as a result
hundreds of people showed up on the day to protest.
Other groups across America and the world used the power of
social media to gain support for their “occupy”
protests.Social Media Sites were used to keep people up to
date on what was going on and where.
Occupy Wall Street - Social Media Success?
Youtube had 1.7m videos with that were viewed 73 million times
Facebook had over 400 pages with a following of 2.7million people
(New York Times JENNIFER PRESTON NOV. 24, 2011)
Twitter had over a hundred accounts with thousands of followers
Other groups were quick to use the power of social media to organise other Occupy
protests around the world.
The success of social Media can be gaged by the actions taken in over 100 cities in
America and 1500 cities globally. (http://occupywallst.org/about/)
Social Media gave like minded people the power to connect with one another over
Environmental Activism - ‘Clicktivism’
In 2011 Greenpeace ran a campaign called ‘Unfriend Coal’. This campaign was
almost entirely carried out through Facebook. Its purpose was to put an end
to Facebook using coal as an energy source to power its huge data centres.
It gathered 700,000 ‘likes’ and resulted in facebook announcing a policy that
they would give preference to buying energy from companies that produced
energy from renewable sources.
It proved that the small action of just clicking a like button on a webpage can
cause actual action and get results.
Facebook listened to its users !
Greenpeace and the ‘kit-kat’ campaign.
This campaign saw the conglomerate Nestle agreeing to exclude companies
from its supply chain that actively destroy rainforests that almost one million
indigenous people (Survival international, 2000) depend on to live.
What gave this campaign such power and momentum was the involvement of
online social media users. Through their ‘online’ actions it lead to ‘offline’
actions being carried out on the ground.
This campaign helped send a message to palm oil and paper companies in the
amazon that it is not ok to destroy the environment and bully people off their
land for greed and profiteering.
Environmental Activism - Online Petitions
Closer to home, the Irish government had seriously discussed proposals to sell
the logging rights of our state owned forests to the highest bidder during the
more desperate times of the recession.
An online petition was launched to put a halt to the proposal. To date the
forests are still in the states hands and are free to use by the Irish people for
leisure and healthy pursuits.
It gave a voice to the Irish people that told the government it was not ok to sell
this valuable asset of the state and its people to service a debt caused by a
greedy minority of society during our ‘boom time’ of cheap credit.
Forests and a healthy environment are things to be treasured in Ireland not
Marriage Equality Referendum
On the 22nd May Ireland became the first country in the world to have a gay marriage
referendum on the country’s constitution. Before Ireland, 17 countries agreed to same
gender marriages by parliament voting
Before the referendum, same gender couples could be granted with civil partnership
With Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and numerous blogs as their primary social media
channels for both campaigns. The “yes” campaign was engaging supporters through
Facebook and the “no” campaign chose Youtube as main tool to deliver their campaign
Yes campaign in Facebook -> 1.6 Million visits and #YESEQUALITY -> over 2 Million
No campaign in Youtube -> most watched video 700,000 views
Haven't got a Facebook account? Campaigners gave away 500,000 Yes and Ta Equality
Marriage Equality Referendum - Social Media Success
Majority voted YES 62.0% (voted No 37.9%)
The first same-gender wedding took place the 18th Nov 2015
Social media brought Global support from the LGBT community and gay couples in
Ireland and abroad
Social gatherings and celebrations in Ireland were organised by campaigners and
announced via social media
Perception about LGBT and couples has changed: Now they are a social group gaining
strength AND VOICE
More people becoming aware and accepting of the LGBT community
Support from other communities
More money is expected to be spent on weddings, travel and children
Tax revenue: Marital status “Married” pay less taxes
Marriage Equality referendum-Social media success
The Yes campaign became very prominent in social media reaching out young people specially
students, it was delivered in a simple way with nice and easy writing .In this way they succeeded
on the mobilisation of the young vote and encourage people to register for the voting (the
Department of Environment has confirmed that 65,911 people registered to vote before the
deadline on 5th May). The debates were delivered in a friendly, positive and calm tone.
The propaganda of the yes campaign was positive, optimistic, colourful and they focus on
supporting positives concepts like equality, fairness and marriage. Campaigners were friendly and
The No campaign was delivered by deeply conservative people only a minority of their followers
were from the LGBT community.
the campaigners were using negative statements, the word “No” appeared too much in their
propaganda, activist were loud, shouting away and giving references from the Bible.
❏ Gladwell makes a strong case against mainly by comparing offline activism with online activism,
citing lots of historical examples where offline activism works. He found little difference in
eventual outcomes between the two.
❏ Kony 2012, Belfast #Flegs counter demos, Egypt Arab Spring?
Social Media Activism - The case For and Against
❏ Yes Equality, manspreading, Environmental Campaigns, Tunisia Arab Spring etc.
❏ International Modern Media Initiative and other initiatives ...
❏ Anonymous - "I'm not scared to say what I think, because you can't get me here."
❏ Instantaneous -real time reporting.
❏ Reach - it’s possible to reach literally millions of people immediately
● Common Themes
○ Social Media is a powerful tool for change
○ Its use is generally accompanied by other forms of activism, such as other media forms and direct
action on the ground (useful complement to traditional forms of activism)
○ Social Media Activism interacts, informs, affects and is affected by other media and events
○ Tipping Points vary greatly depending on the issue, time and location
■ It’s very much a perception thing, but it is linked to critical mass and the ‘power of the crowd’
and the notion that entrenched positions are no longer tenable.
● How should the activism use of Social Media be measured?
○ By itself directly achieving change? Perhaps not, people effect change by using a variety of
approaches and tools, one of which is Social Media
○ By the success or failure of the campaign? An very important factor, but is this the full picture?
○ By gauging the ability of Social Media to meet its objectives as envisioned by activists? Arguably
yes. Social Media does help activists to communicate, organise, further the debate and increase
support for the desire change.
Appendix 1 - References
Gladwell, Malcolm (2010). “Small Change: why the revolution will not be tweeted”. New Yorker Magazine.
Hintz, Arne (2011). “Challenging the Digital Gatekeepers: International Policy Initiatives for Free Expression”.
Howard, Philip et al (2011). “Opening Closed Regimes: What was the role of Social Media during the Arab Spring?”.
Stepanova, Ekaterina (2011). “The Role of Information Communications Technology in the Arab Spring”.
APPENDIX - BONUS SLIDE 1
❏#kony2012 - a tipping point for the case against?
❏ 2012 Invisible Children video appeared on youtube etc talking about the
plight of child soldiers in Uganda.
❏ It went seriously viral - like, 100 million views.
❏ Faced massive criticism for oversimplification of complex issues.
❏ Also it exaggerated the extent of the issues.
❏ Factually incorrect in many ways.
❏ Surely this represents failure - and almost everything that is wrong with
Social Media Activism.
Appendix - Bonus Slide 2
❏ #manspreading - the act of sitting (usually on public transport) with your legs
spread wide apart so as to encroach on other people's personal space.
❏ Very serious issue! Almost as serious as #shebagging :-)
❏ 2013 campaign on social media (started on Tumblr) highlighting the issue.
❏ The campaign got recognised!!
❏ Technology facilitated this - cameras on phones. Platforms to post to ...
❏ manspreading is now a recognised “thing”
❏ Arrests have been made against manspreaders. e.g. by the NYPD.
Appendix - Bonus Slide 3
#flegs - Belfast City Hall Flag Protests 2013
not exactly Arab Spring, but still, chaos ensued.
£50 million in lost business, £20 million is policing.
Interesting not because of the campaign for, but for the campaign against.
Ironic hashtags #flegs #ladfleg ridiculing “mainstream” behaviour.
More forthright, unedited news stories.
#takebackthecity tried to organise counter demonstrations.
Success or failure?