What is Digital Activism?
Digital Activism is the ability to take activism to a new level of reach by engaging audiences around the world through campaigns and hashtags.
Digital activism grew out of the campaign against Lotus Marketplace in the 1990s, which was organized through news portals and e-mails.
Internet platforms and digital technologies offer a new way to spread messages and organize actions in motion. Platform activism has clear benefits, but digital activism is not limited to using platforms to support existing forms of activism. Digital activism also takes advantage of the new opportunities that platforms offer us to spread values and provide access to information.
Peer-to-peer communication networks have mobilized large ad hoc groups. We have seen a number of examples of how ideas, activism and protests spread through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, tiktok, and other social networks.
For example, international coverage of the Arab Spring focused heavily on the role social media may have played in mobilizing participation in street protests. The New York Times has published the memoir of Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim, “How the Egyptian Revolution Beginning on Facebook.” The protests in Tahrir Square stem from a Facebook group that Gh created on March 22, 2011, after he had launched it in protest at the brutal killings by the police, Khaled says.
Some who question the importance of digital communication as a mobilization tool call the idea that meaningful activism requires strong offline connections to mobilize engagement; Slacktivism. It has become obvious that many of the actions aimed at mobilizing masses to act depend on so-called digital platforms. Political parties, too, are increasingly dependent on Facebook, a dependence they are likely to regret soon. Just as with social movements and NGOs, we are seeing a shift away from the use of social media towards more traditional forms of communication.
Businesses are mobilising their own business interests around issues that affect their own users, not the public in general or even the point at which they act.
This brings us back to the problematic issues associated with digital activism and how it could not become a victim of its own success. Contemporary digital activism is primarily an activism that aims to address the effects of existing social and political problems, rather than solving them on a deeper and more fundamental level. Digital policy is about finding ways to adapt to a problem (for example, by using sensors that promise more efficiency), but it seeks to reverse the problem altogether.
Signing a Facebook petition or pursuing a hashtag for indigenous rights in the Canadian context is a form of social media activism, but in the end it does more harm than it does help our digital identities. How to resist the temptation to take the easy route of signing a petition, raising money online, or tapping into a vast sensor network, and instead try to articulate a deeper, more fundamental cause of social justice and change? From #metoo to #Kony2012, social media activism is creating a platform to spread ideas quickly and force people to join a cause.
This practice has been growing in popularity since the 1990s, and RESET.org defines it as “a form of digital activism in which the use of social media and other forms of non-traditional media is used to bring about social and political change.
This site examines the increasing use of social media and its role in digital activism in the United States. In particular, it is enabling activists who use social media to facilitate this practice. This practice is a platform within the existing media landscape, but also an important part of a broader discussion about the role of digital media in political activism.
The Digital Policy Research Association has also been debating for years whether formal organisation remains central to collective action in the digital age. Hierarchical organizations are more likely to use social media and other forms of communication technology than non-hierarchical organizations.
Digital activism is usually non-violent, and works best when combined with street organizing, according to a new study from the University of Washington. The trend toward horizontalism that digital scholars have widely heralded in the wake of Occupy Wall Street has a hidden price: a lack of accountability and accountability for the actions of its participants.