Enough Already! Online Activism Works!

(Awesome photo courtesy of Gratisography)

When feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez wanted to challenge the Bank of England's decision to replace Elizabeth Fry with Winston Churchill on the five-pound note, she turned to the social web as her toolkit.

With 35,000 signatures on a Change.org online petition, extensive support for her on Twitter, a demonstration in front of the Bank mobilized through Twitter, and widespread media coverage resulting from the online profile of the campaign, the Bank's new governor (Canadian Mark Carney) changed its decision and announced that the image of Jane Austen would appear on the ten-pound note in 2017.

I'm led to point this out because of a challenge thrown at me yesterday. I was on a panel at the 2016 Public Affairs Association of Canada annual conference ('The Art & Science of Public Affairs—Digital Disruption') discussing the emergence of digital storytelling within advocacy campaigns and was interrogated, rather combatively, to point to evidence (or 'data' as the interlocutor put it) of successful change efforts intermediated by social agitation.

Since the French's Ketchup Facebook campaign failed to convince, I'm posting a short list here of a few more digitally supported campaigns that put the lie to the idea that online crusades (or what the University of Oxford's Helen Magrett and her colleagues call 'tiny acts of political participation') can't result in meaningful change, especially if combined with offline action 

In case such campaigns as #BlackLivesMatter, #OccupyWallStreet,#I Can'tBreathe, #EricGarner, #MikeBrown and #HandsUpDon'tShoot aren't evidence enough of the impact of social web-based political mobilization, then here are three more:

  1. A 217,000 person petition asking Mars, Incorporated to stop using artifical dyes in M&Ms because of their effect on hyperactivity saw Mar's President and CEO announce in February 2016: “Our consumers are the boss and we hear them. If it’s the right thing to do for them, it’s the right thing to do for Mars”, and agree to remove the offending dyes from its products including M&Ms.
  2. In 2013 the Kitsilano Coast Guard base was closed by the Canadian Conservative Party, an unpopular deicison. After public outcry including 11,000 signatures on a Change.org petition, a Facebook campaign and support from local municipal politicians, the base was reopened two months ago.
  3. Feburary 2016 saw the fin whale whaling company, Hvalur, cancel its summer hunt of endangered fin whales after an extensive campaign by wildlife organizations and an Avaaz community petition with more than a million signatures.

Not enough?

Follow some of Change.org's successful local petition campaigns, take a look at the opportunities to petition the White House on We The People, check out the role of social in some of Purpose's successful crusades, or the fact that through the UK Cabinet Offie e-petition site 222 petitions got a response from the government and 25 petitions were debated in the House,

Since there is as yet no database of successful social media campaigns as far as I know, convincing cynics won't be easy.

This continues my frustrating efforts.


Twitter 101

Twitter 101

"Marketers Ruin Everything"