The Rise of Online Activism

The internet provides endless opportunities of information sharing, debate and communication to voices that could otherwise go unheard. However, one must wonder whether online activism can bring about real change.

Online Activism is the use of electronic technologies such as social media, for example; Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and podcasts for various forms of activism. These range from raising awareness, petitioning, campaigning, and even exposing different cause-related issues.

The hope is that with the use of these platforms an organisation will be able to reach a huge audience as well as providing this audience with a quick and easy way to lend support. With recent numbers citing that as much as 67% of adults are users of social media, it has become one of the biggest platforms for fast efficient communication across the globe [1].  But can it be used to elicit change offline as well as online?

To bridge the gap between the world of action and the world of video streaming, likes and tags many online activism initiatives focus on using social media tools to create and share gripping multimedia content in order to generate conversations, become viral and eventually lead to collective action [2].

Online campaigning can be seen as the most cost effective, efficient way for an NGO to not only get its message across but also gain much needed support. Here are some examples of successful campaigns that were launched online:

  • Change.org

    Change.org is and online petitioning site aimed at soliciting change over a wide variety of causes. They provide a platform to support the petitions of others as well as create your own petition. It is currently available in 196 countries and boasts a total of 184, 097, 364 signatures. Some of their success stories include the banning of sexist ad’s from Ryanair and a Spanish school ending discrimination. Read More...

  • Unfriend Coal

    Unfriend Coal is a Greenpeace initiative which used its facebook timeline to encourage facebook to lessen their carbon footprint by using renewable energy, and facebook listened! They are currently focusing on other IT companies like Microsoft and Amazon and Apple to do the same. Read More...

  • MoveOn.org

    MoveOn.org is an online advocacy site which allows people to make a difference through supporting petitions, creating petitions or joining a council. There is also the option to donate to the cause! One of their current featured stories involves a women speaking up in a video on sexual assault in the military. Read More...

  • Greenpeace Africa

    Greenpeace is a NGO which uses various platforms to fight for causes such as changing to renewable energy, preservation of forest as well as ocean life. They recently announced on their blog that Google would be investing R103 million in Solar Power in the Northern Cape. Now I would call that a big wins for renewable energy! Read More...

  • 38Degrees.org

    38degrees is an online campaign initiative which operates with the motto that they “will enable people to act together, to create and avalanche for change”. Some of their recent success stories include raising money for Lewisham Hospital. The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign raised the £20 000 the hospital needed to challenge the closure of some of its services. Read More...

  • Avaaz.org

    Avaaz is an online petitioning site which allows you to see the names of the supporters as they come in, like Jamie from South Africa, Keane from England , all showing that they care and are willing to take action against the same injustices that you are. This builds a sense of community with people all over the world fighting to make the world a better place. Read more...

  • Hashtag Campaigns [#]

    Companies have begun taking advantage of the hashtag feature available on Twitter in order to get people talking. President Obama’s administration raised awareness about tax inflation with the phrase " What does #40dollars a paycheck mean to you?" Similarly, the UNICEF #awaazdo campaign generated 203, 248 sign ups after being metioned 1,525 times on Twitter. Read More...