Digital Activism can be defined as the practice of using digital technology to increase the effectiveness of a social or political change campaign. There are many acts of digital activism happening around the world today and each act aspires for change. By using tools as simple as Facebook, for example, allows average and ordinary people to start and become a part of something huge that could potentially change their community, government, and the world. The amount of social movements that have become possible because of tools like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter is quite inspiring and has triggered a new wave of activism world wide.
The Global Justice Movement, also knows as the anti-globalization movement, is a broad globalized social movement opposing what is often known as “corporate globalization” and promoting equal distribution of economic resources. Its unifying theme is opposition to capitalism, socialism and ultimately, tyranny. The movement is based off of five principles, known as “GRACE”. GRACE stands for Global justice, Respect the earth, Abundance is possible, Creative work for all, and Economic democracy. According to Liz Highleyman in the Encyclopedia of American Social Movements, “the global justice movement is the largest and most diverse social change movement in existence today, bringing tens of thousands of activists into the streets worldwide since the turn of the millennium” (http://www.black-rose.com/articles-liz/globjustice.html).
Global justice activists trace their genealogy back to the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico in 1994 when the group declared war on the Mexican state. The war, however, has been primarily nonviolent and against military, paramilitary, and corporate incursions into Chiapas. The group calls themselves the EZLN, an acronym translating to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. The EZLN is made up of rural indigenous people, but also gains support from urban areas and international web support. “The EZLN aligns itself with the wider alter-globalization, anti-neoliberal social movement, seeking indigenous control over their local resources, especially land” (http://www.zapatistarevolution.com/). The EZLN uprising has been tough and has been countered by the much superior Mexican army but the group has abstained from using weapons and have used a new strategy to get their message out there and gain support. This new strategy is the use of the internet. With this new tactic, the group has been able to get exposure and have gained support from a variety of non-globalization organizations as well as media exposure from leftist and mainstream outlets. This created a “social netwar” because of the local and transnational support the group was now receiving. Without the “netwar,” the group would have been as organized or successful as it has been (Ronfeldt and Arquilla, 1998). The group has also gotten the attention of music artists and have received support from bands like Rage Against the Machine and the Spanish group Maná.
Inspired by the Zapatistas and previous struggles against free trade, structural adjustment, and environmental destruction, global justice activists have made innovative use of global computer networks, informational politics, and network-based organizational forms (Castells, 2004). In the United States, the first global justice movement to gain widespread publicity was in November of 1999 against the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle, WA. The protest was unbelievable. According to http://www.globalissues.org, there were 50,000-100,000 protesters that showed up from all over the world. They ranged from students, human right activists, religious leaders, environmental groups and many more. The “Battle of Seattle” was a huge success as it was captured by many mediascapes worldwide, which is important because it caught the attention of thousands of people who became supporters and of people who would become future revolutionaries inspired by the protest (Castells, 2004). People were also getting information through internet based distribution lists, websites, and the new Independent Media Center. New television stations even started to emerge just to capture the social movement and although many stations were not able to sustain over time, “they provided concrete mechanisms for generating physical and virtual communication and coordination in real time among diverse movements, groups, and collectives” (Castells, 2004).
Global justice movements have largely grown and expanded through the organization of mass mobilizations. Mass mobilizations offer a concrete goal around which to organize, they provide physical spaces for activists to meet, and they embody virtual networks. Computer networks provide an infrastructure for these groups by having a significantly faster, flexible and global reach of information to the organizations and the public. This computerized infrastructure allows movements to work at local and global levels while integrating both online and offline activity. With social networks, Barry Wellman has argued that they are “profoundly transforming the nature of communities, sociality, and interpersonal relations” (Castells, 2004). They also allow communities to sustain in relationships across vast distances. Not to mention, the internet has become a routine part of our daily lives and has even began integrating our virtual and physical activities. This is a big factor in the success of global justice movements because they can communicate to large groups of people without even trying. Smart phones, iPads, laptops and electronic organizers allow us to keep in touch with the virtual world with just the press of a button. Sometimes, you don’t even have to press anything; the alerts just come up on your phone and you are automatically connected and informed on the latest update. Videos are also a great tactic for activists to reach out to the public and get their point across with the use of emotion, visuals, and shock factors that would not have the same effect through text or a few photographs.
Many activists around the world are using tools like the internet to create social and political change in their countries. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have been an essential tool for activists to succeed in their global movements by gaining support from people all over the world. It is truly amazing how something like the internet can be used by ordinary people to create change and reform with just a click of a button.
“WTO Protests in Seattle, 1999.” Global Issues. Anup Shah, 18 Feb. 2001. Web. 02 Mar. 2012. <http://www.globalissues.org/article/46/wto-protests-in-seattle-1999>.
Ness, Immanuel, ed. “The Global Justice Movement.” Encyclopedia of American Social Movements. Liz Highleyman, 2002. Web. 02 Mar. 2012. <http://www.black-rose.com/articles-liz/globjustice.html>.
“Zapatista Revolution.” , Chiapas Mexico. Web. 02 Mar. 2012. <http://www.zapatistarevolution.com/>.
Ronfeldt, David, and John Arquilla. “Chapter Six: The Emergence and Influence of the Zapatista Social Netwar.” Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2001. 171-95. RAND Corporation. 18 Oct. 2010. Web. 1 Mar. 2012. <http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1382.html>.
Juris, Jeffrey S. “Chapter 15: Networked Social Movements: Global Movements for Global Justice.” The Network Society: A Cross-cultural Perspective. By Manuel Castells. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Pub., 2004. 341-57. Print
Smith, Jackie. “Globalizing Resistance: The Battle of Seattle and the Future of Social Movements.” Mobilization: An International Quarterly 6.1 (2001): 1-19. Google Scholar. Web. 1 Mar. 2012.
Whenever we think about social activism many things come to mind. In the recent years, there have been many accounts of countries participating in different online activism to get the attention of their nations leaders and the world around them. One that wasn’t so widely known was the Spanish Revolution.
The Spanish Revolution was started by leading bloggers and prominent figures on the internet. It didnt start off as one movoment, but eventually two groups that together to start what was known as 15M Movement. One of the leading groups Democracia real YA, used text, Facebook, and twitter to call the cities of Spain to come together in Sol on May 15,2011 to protest the ongoing financial crisis. And a change in the government. The 15M movement was a demand for the leaders of Spain to do something about the issues the country is facing; over 20% unemployment rate and over 30% youth unemployment rate, politicians that are unable to deal with the effects of the crisis, high housing prices both for rental and purchase, and a general discontent with the status of the political system.Many of the supporters of 15M want a true democracy where their voices can be heard and their opinions matter. Just as in our “Occupy” movements, it is the young people fighting in this revolution. The young people feel as though they have to fight for their future. As they live life, in Spain, the retirement age has moved from 65 to 67. As one protester said, via a YouTube Interview, “If it wasn’t for Twitter or Facebook, this protest wouldn’t really be going on, this isn’t really being covered by the media” and another said, “This is the only way we can create change, by communicating people to people, and the internet allows that”.
On Twitter, the hashtag #SpanishRevolution was used to generate attention from the media in and outside of Spain. In total, over 50 cities participated in the protests and according to the statistics from the Spanish Brodcasting company, posted on june 6, 2011, between 6.5 and 8 million people have particiapted in this movement in some way; either by using Twitter or Facebook to broadcast and inform, or by actually being apart of the protests (http://www.rtve.es/noticias/20110806/mas-seis-millones-espanoles-han-participado-movimiento-15m/452598.shtml).
In Spain,they have both a national and a regional government. there are two main parties in their political system Spanish Partido Comunista de España or in English, Communist Party of Spain (PCE), and the Spanish Socialist Workers Party or the PSOE in Spain. The PSOE is formed of working class men and women who are fighting for the evolution of change, “They were founded as an expression of the desires of the new working class and the industrial revolution”. Today, the PSOE still holds to those same core values
The PCE on the other hand, broke away from the PSOE by members who were unhappy with the current situation that was presented to them. Although this movement was huge for Spain and many young people living there, unfortunately the impact that they wanted to have can be seen as a loss by some and by others it is a reminder to not give up. Voting took place on May 22, 2011 and the results aren’t exactly what the people wanted. The power that the Socialist had was lost to the Conservatives.
The movement continues to refuse participating in the elections because they feel they would lose their identity in the process, so to show they will not be ignored, they have started day acts of silence out to demonstrate, as one spokesperson stated, “the unity of the movement in times of adversity”. Therefore, they plan to continue, providing the space and the platform for the birth of a true democracy in which they can be full participants, until the time comes where politicians will be forced to listen to what they have to say and take action. Even though the camp in Sol is the biggest and most organized, there are hundreds of camps and protests around the world, they consist of Spanish and non-Spanish citizens, and in them the same process of debate and unity for change is going on. These individual movements will be merging slowly on the web over the following months, as new sites and more volunteers are showing up. Even now in 2012, there are still blogs and people who are continuously keeping others updated on new developments and new movements they have coming up.
“Más de seis millones de españoles han participado en el Movimiento 15M” http://www.rtve.es/noticias/20110806/mas-seis-millones-espanoles-han-participado-movimiento-15m/452598.shtml
Avaaz, meaning “voice” in multiple languages, properly fits this online activism site better than a snuggie on a cold night. As opposed to other websites who focus mainly on one issue, avaaz.org is the cornucopia of issues varying in degree and range; from regional to global controversies that allows members from across the world to participate.
Through the use of digital media, Avaaz has created a global phenomenon; using videos, pictures, online and offline protests, as well as innovative ideas for campaigns with successful outcomes. There is no question why this activism site has flourished.
“We take action — signing petitions, funding media campaigns and direct actions, emailing, calling and lobbying governments, and organizing “offline” protests and events — to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people inform the decisions that affect us all.” (www.avaaz.org).
Avaaz is innovative in the digital activism spectrum in that the website is developed by diversity. From language, creative content, to different countries, it has proved effective in spreading news on global problems.
“It campaigns in 15 languages and is served by a small core team of 52 full-time staff worldwide and thousands of volunteers in all 192 UN member states, including Iran and China, where its website is illegal.” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17199253).
The website is accessible through various mediums like Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, as well as the official site. Avaaz has a high rate of receptiveness and I accredit this to be significant in creating timely campaigns successfully.
Avaaz has participated in hundreds of world wide campaigns ranging from climate change, lobbying governments, providing communication equipment to Libya, Egypt, and Syria, as well as fighting against the Bush administration. Just to name a few.
Therefore, Avaaz is more centrally controlled than the campaign networks of ‘second generation’ transnational activism. At the same time, it is flexible and multi-issue, advocating for a variety of ‘permanent’ campaigns with the main focus changing quickly according to unfolding events. (Kavada,2009)
The website is updated on a daily basis with constant news concerning the current happenings.
Another possible impact of the Internet on political participation is enhancing traditional participation by easing the dissemination of information on activities and events to a broader public and making coordination easier for activists (Ayres, 1999; Bennett, et al., 2008). (Christensen, 2011)
“Because Avaaz is wholly member-funded, democratic accountability is in our DNA. No corporate sponsor or government backer can insist that Avaaz shift its priorities to suit some external agenda—we simply don’t accept funds from governments or corporations.” (avaaz.org)
I believe that avaaz.org simplifies the activism process because it relies heavily on the speed of the internet in order to have effective campaigns while encouraging others to participate because of its convenience.
To serve its strategy of rapid mass mobilization, Avaaz has designed a website that allows numerous participants to undertake easy, brief and small actions. Reflecting the outward orientation of Avaaz, its platform also contains features that help its members to spread the message of campaigns through email and content sharing sites. It includes a ‘Tell your Friends’ application in petition and campaign pages, allowing supporters to email their contacts about actions they have undertaken with Avaaz. (Kavada,2007).
“The publication on the website seems to serve the purpose of community-building. Submitted by users living in different countries and speaking various languages, the comments are testament to Avaaz’s diverse and international membership. Other features that increase this sense of involvement include graphical representations of the number of people who have contributed money or signed a petition. Photographs from offline events organized by Avaaz further provide visitors with a sense of context, depicting the outcome of the actions taken online in a tangible way.” (Kavada,2007).
Supporters become ‘communicators’ of the Avaaz message and spread the word through digital media such as the Youtube video above, encouraging citizens around the globe to take action and join the Avaaz movement.
Digital media has proved to be an effective mode for online activism, predominately in the political success of Avaaz. The Avaaz dynamics focus mainly on its supporters, whether it be through donation or word of mouth and action.
According to the claims of Avaaz.org, many of the campaigns launched have led to significant results in the real life by changing the outcomes of public decision–making. They also include statements from the decision–makers that highlight the impact of the Avaaz users in getting the result they wanted. (Christensen, 2011).
Avaaz Events . (n.d.). Welcome to Flickr – Photo Sharing. Retrieved February 26, 2012, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/avaaz/sets/72157625096277082/show/
Avaaz/About Us. (n.d.). Avaaz.org. Retrieved February 26, 2012, from http://www.avaaz.org/en/about.php
BBC. (2012, February 28). BBC News – Profile: Global campaign group Avaaz. BBC – Homepage. Retrieved March 2, 2012, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17199253
Borger, J. (2012, March 1). Online activists in global fight. Sydney Morning Herald – Business & World News Australia | smh.com.au. Retrieved March 2, 2012, from http://www.smh.com.au/world/online-activists-in-global-fight-20120229-1u3bu.html
Christensen. (n.d.). Avaaz Platforms.Research Journals. Retrieved February 26, 2012, from frodo.lib.uic.edu/ojsjournals/index.php/fm/article/view/3336/2767
Kavada, A. (2007). Collective action and the social web: Comparing the architecture of Avaaz.org and Openesf.net. Communicative Approaches to Politics and Ethics in Europe, 1, 129-140.
Kavdad, A. (2009). Engagement, Bonding and Identity Across Multiple Platforms: Avaaz on Facebook, YouTube and Myspace. Engagement, Bonding and Identity Across Multiple Platforms: Avaaz on Facebook, YouTube and Myspace, 1, 1-30. Retrieved March 1, 2012, from http://internet-politics.cies.iscte.pt/IMG/pdf/ECPR2009Kavada.pdf
Hacktivism has been defined as “politically-motivated hacking” (Kenneth Einar Himma). It uses the Internet as a platform to not only share information with the public, protest against organizations, companies, or governments, but can also generate attention to overlooked causes. According to Jeroen Van Laer and Peter Van Aelst; authors of Cyber Protest and Civil Society, There are various ways a hacktivist can protest; ranging from denial of service attacks to the use of web site defacement. This approach is non-violent in nature, but has caused many problems and brought attention to the lack of cyber security around the inter webs.
The following examples merely begin to cover the extent to which activist are utilizing the Internet in protest around the world. With these protest, activist begin to gain attention to their cause, and allows it to be brought up in discussion.
Virtual Sit In
A virtual sit in is most commonly known as denial of service, this type of “attack” occurs when an organization’s server receives an overwhelming number of requests rendering the website inoperative. Depending on the original traffic of the website, determines the magnitude of the attack.
The Electronic Disturbance Theater is known as one of the first social movement hacktivist groups. In 1998 the EDT organized several “virtual sit-ins” in support of the Zappatista movement in Mexico. They targeted the United States Pentagon website and the home page of Mexican President Zedillo, which were amongst the several other websites. They developed and used software known as Floodnet. Participants would click on a link provided by the EDT, this link would trigger large number of requests sent to the websites and overwhelm the servers. Unfortunately, the Pentagon responded with a counter attack, forcing the EDT to reboot their computers.
The Electronic Disturbance Theater (one of the first social movement hacktivist groups)
UC San Diego Professor targets university President’s website
An email bomb calls for a large amount of emails to be sent at the same time, eventually causing the mailbox to overflow or overwhelm the server in which the mailbox is located. In 2006, 19 year old David Lennon pleaded guilty to charges of breaking the Computer Misuse Act after sending over 5 million emails to a former employee. Lennon, at the time was 16, caused the email server to overwhelm.
First UK Conviction for email bombing http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/08/23/email_bomber_guilty/
Defacing a website requires hacking into a website and altering the source code. This can either be used to redirect visitors to an alternative website, sometimes their own, or change the homepage.
The Syrian Electronic Army is a pro-government activist group, which is retaliating against the activist groups hacking into several government websites. They would flood several social networking sites with pro-regime messages. As shown in the following clip, groups like Anonymous are retaliating against the Syrian Electronic Army. The defacement on the government homepages range from graphic videos depicting violent acts against activists, to cartoon mocking.
Activist Deface Syrian Official Website
Like many social movements, not one act in itself will solve the problem at hand. It requires the participation on many activists and supporters to achieve such goal. Hacktivist are not attempting to create a disturbance just for the sake of disturbing. They are determined to fight for a cause they believe in. However, with the current uprising in leaked information by hacktivist, many feel that these acts are crossing the line and placing many people in harm’s way.
The group Anonymous began what they called “Operation Hiroshima” January 1st. The group used websites which facilitate anonymous publishing, sites like pastebin.com and scribd.com, to distribute documents containing personal information about media executives and government officials. This operation was in retaliation to the new anti-piracy legislation. Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, aimed at preventing piracy by not allowing U.S. search engines like Google and Yahoo to direct its users from web sites which distribute pirated material.
With that being said, attention will begin to shift to the vulnerabilities and lack of security in the cyber world. Steve Manfield-Devine raises a good point in his article “Hacktivism, assessing the damage.” Companies are not immune to these types of attacks, and more of them are becoming aware. Though for the most part, companies do not consider these types of attacks as major threats, they do need to keep the brand they have created intact. Hacktivist do not plan on ceasing action any time soon. Manfield-Devine noted that this type of activity continues to catch the attention of younger users. As time goes by we can only expect the emergence of new hacktivist taking on new opponents.
(August 23, 2011) http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1353-4858(11)70084-8
There’s no doubt that 2011 was a year filled with revolution all over the world. It seemed as if a new movement appeared right after the other. Occupy Wall Street wasn’t shy of the spotlight, being talked about all over including on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The use of Twitter and Facebook facilitated the movements getting many involved so quickly. In no way am I saying that these sites are what created these movements, what I am saying however, is that they made the mobilization of supporters easier and created a new means of revolution. Within the Occupy Movement you have some people that before physically being at the Occupy protests where voicing their demands and opinions through the online community on Facebook and Twitter.
However, questions arise about whether social media platforms are yielding all positive results or if they’re actually an easy way to claim someone is an “activist.”
Social Media’s Role:
As stated above Twitter and Facebook allow for messages about the Occupy Movement as well as others to be transmitted to people all over the world within seconds. One reason for why such platforms are so successful is because they are controlled by the public and those involved.
In his article The Policy Sciences of Social Media, Matthew R. Auer explores Harold Lasswell’s research on the effects and outcomes of receiving and transmitting information through social media/online means. Laswell mentions that one reason for social media websites’ success is that on these, the public is able to see news delivered by the public rather than only seeing what’s shown on mainstream media.
Laswell refers to those posting on Facebook, Twitter, and also YouTube as “i-reporters” distributing information and news without the middle man (editors and journalists) and “eliminating the editor and any censorship,” (Auer,2011). This is infinitely evident in what we see about the Occupy Movement on all the above mentioned websites. On YouTube, not only is the viewer provided with images and videos and through those connected to the cause but comments made on the videos allow for opinions to be shared; something that wouldn’t happen in traditional media. As far as supporters of the Occupy Movement, they know that when viewers come across the comments left on YouTube videos they read those comments which can result in either the swaying of the viewer’s position or re-enforcement of support for the issue.
” Look up on Youtube “Occupy:” and educate yourself. Also go to facebook occupy sites – the truth is there, not with mainstream media,” a comment left by YouTube user gerrystiling shows how this YouTube user like many others relies on social media rather than traditional news to learn about issues.
After analyzing Laswell’s “science of communication” research, Matthew Auer wrote that the goal of his article wasn’t to argue that social media platforms give both positive and negative results saying that “early anecdotal evidence about the uses of social media make that fact plain enough.” What he did aim to do was examine their use in a larger context and look at how they are used now and in the future “to mediate public understanding of important events, trends, and decisions.” In other words, the public is now looking to social media sites to get their news or the other side of the story. In a way this shows that public is relying less on what they see on the nightly news or what they read in newspapers; does this mean faith in the media is no longer there? Comments like “if it weren’t for YouTube the truth would not be told,” certainly make it seem like the answer to that question is yes.
Below are examples of media coverage of the Occupy Movement. The first shows traditional news coverage, the second is a video depicting various OWS supporters, and the third is an OWS supporter using YouTube to address those that may not support the OWS movement and also reach out to her fellow OWS community members.
Of course, not everyone out there will agree that social media is a positive driver for activism. Take a look at the cartoon below in which an activist from the 70’s talks about what he has to show for his participation in a protest during that decade compared to a modern activist.
In an article titled Activism vs. Slacktivism by Dennis McCafferty, online activism is questioned when McCafferty points out if today’s activists being so connected to social media makes a difference where it matters most. McCafferty introduces New York contributor Malcolm Gladwell who believes that simply hitting the “like” button on Facebook is the most minimal form of activism and only loosely ties people stating that, “meaningful activism requires strong, robust organizational structure.” The basic argument in what Gladwell stated is that “activism associated with social media is dependent on weak ties.” You will find that many comments from those opposing the OWS movement contain similar arguments; some like what you will see in a blog response by Josh Barro, saying that supporters of OWS can’t provide a clear goal.
Auer, M. R. (2011). The Policy Sciences of Social Media. Policy Studies Journal, 39(4),
McCafferty, D. (2011). Activism vs. slacktivism. Communications Of The ACM, 54(12),
Ladhani, N. (2011). The Organizing Impact of Social Networking. Social Policy, 40(4), 57.
- My name is Lupe Duran I’m 21, I’m a Mass Communications major and this is my 4th year at CSUSB. I’m a customer service associate at Lowe’s in Victorville and deal with the oddest customer situations on a daily basis. I’m quiet not shy and if I’m not working or at school I’m usually out with friends. I’m outgoing, not opposed to going out to karaoke with a group and making a fool of myself on stage (I’m just kidding I’m not that bad). I’m a huge football fan, New Orleans Saints is my team (YES I liked them BEFORE they won the Superbowl). After I graduate I hope to get into broadcast journalism or sports journalism.
- My name is Gennevy Galindo, I’m 23 years old, and this is my first quarter at CSUSB. I work full time and I am currently going to school part-time. I have 3 dogs, one is a rescued pitbull. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my boyfriend and friends. I like to check out local music shows and explore places.
- My name is Ashley Davis I am 22 years old, I am a Human Communications major. i work alot, I love school and I love my family. I am a shy person unless people get to know me and then I get a little more outspoken. I am finally become a lover of Twitter and I feel that finally I am happy with my life.
- My name is Marie Ventura and I just turned 21 years old! I’m a Communications major, concentrating in Public Relations and I absolutely cannot wait to graduate!! This is my fourth year and if all goes as planned I can graduate this upcoming fall quarter. I work a lot and go to school so I hardly have any free time during the week, but on the weekends I enjoy spending time with my family and boyfriend and going out for drinks with my friends. I’m very outgoing and I always look at the bright side of things in any situation.