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The future of digital activism

Not everyone sees merit in online activism. Opponents of digital activism often dub it slacktivism, because in their eyes its nothing more then people lazily agreeing to an online petition and stopping there. This is often used by people to dismiss online petitions, saying its participants don’t really care about the cause of the petition in an attempt to devalue it.

But petitions have managed to reach a lot more people via the internet. The ease with which the internet allows petition causes to reach their goals have revolutionized this branch of activism.  Avaaz.org is a prime example of this. It gives a voice to activists, helping them setting up a worldwide petition and by that it helps to raise international awareness to their cause. The essence of the petition still remains the same, even if people say they agree from their lazy chair and don’t do more than that, it still makes them to form an opinion on a matter.

On top of the raising of awareness, it also motivates people to do more then just click the petition. Since signing and promoting the petition is done with such ease, it invites the signer to do a little more. Several studies show that digital activists have a higher participation rate in further activities that support their cause. For example staging an event or organizing a boycott.

A prime example of such a boycott was the one that was organized by Reddit users in an attempt to punish Go Daddy for supporting SOPA. Of course there were also naysayers at this boycott. One of their prime arguments was that boycotting one company was never enough. And that it was virtually impossible to successfully boycott all organisations who have ties to SOPA due to the vastness of these corporations. Its pretty hard to keep track of what product is made by who and if they are connected to one of the 872 companies who support the anti piracy bill.

Yet, activists have made it simple again by just yelling: “There is an app for that!” In order to make it easier they designed an android application that tells you if the product is in any way related to SOPA supporting coorporations.  By simply scanning the barcode of the product, the application will access a database which immediately tell the user if the product is ‘dirty’ or not.

Initiatives like these show that activism is moving forward with technology. Because of them it is now easier to step up for a good cause. They also increase the impact of the existing methods of activism. The internet is connecting the world, and is making it easier for people to make it a better one. “Think global and act local.” is slowly changing to “Think global and act global.”

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