Online activism

Published on
March 8, 2012

One of the most ambitious online e-advocacy campaigns by an activist group began in the past 36 hours. It is likely that Kony 2012 will keep web users intrigued and embroiled in discussion of the merits of keyboard advocacy and activism in the months to come.

Without commenting on the campaign’s content, it’s become a fascinating case study in online activism, even at this early stage.

The organisers are seeking to make social media (mainly Facebook) a grass-roots political virtual rally for armchair activists around the globe. The campaign centres around an emotive and compelling documentary-style video that ends with a very clear call to action – join up and join in.

So far it has demonstrated the speed by which a social media-savvy organisation or cause (Invisible Children in this case) can rise in the consciousness of tens of millions of people around the world almost overnight by harnessing a network which, in the group’s own words, has more users than the world had a population 200 years ago.

It has also demonstrated the diversity of views that social media encompasses and amplifies. We’ve already seen a wave of backlash with bloggers and online commentators asking questions about the group’s structure and how it will distribute any funds it raises.

If the group thought they were going to get nothing but plaudits, then they didn’t understand the environment they were stepping into. It is more likely however that they were well aware of the conversations – both positive and negative – that the campaign would generate.

For those used to traditional media, the prospect of welcoming negative feedback might be alien but think about it this way: if the group’s goal is raising awareness to Facebook’s 750 million users (and beyond), then all conversations will contribute to that end.

It will be interesting to see what impact this mass movement has in the hallways of power both at home and abroad with Capitol Hill the primary focus for this particular campaign. Considering the importance attributed to social media in President Obama’s campaign run, you would imagine his advisors are watching closely.