The Internet and Political Change

Is the internet a tool for social justice? I believe the answer is a strong YES.

There are a lot of websites that help social justice issues by campaigning for their causes, fundraising, and educating and spreading information to a broad audience. Awareness is spread on issues that people may not know about through major media outlets like the news. If something shows up on twitter it can reach a broad audience in seconds. You can look up the hashtags and find out more about what the hashtag is supporting. There are trending hashtags that spread awareness and allow people to give their support this is powerful because you can participate, you are involved in the cause and feel part of the event. When something happens in the world, like the the terrorists attacks in France, there is trending, immediate support can be sent and this brings the world closer. When people share videos and events are live streamed through applications like Periscope, the visual images make strong impact. Seeing events allows them to become real to us so far away. Events touch us and they become our problem in a global village. We are more likely to care, and hopefully take some kind of action. The internet makes it easy to become involved giving opportunities to have virtual protest sit ins, sign petitions, use e-transfers to send money, send gifts and other aid online. Films that form parts of campaigns for social justice causes appear regularly online. This greatly increases the reach and impact of these campaigns.

The impact of the internet on progressive activism as a forum for spreading information and organization has become a global phenomenon. Applications such as website, email, and internet relay make this possible. Cyberactivism (taking political action online) has become an important tool for social justice. The development of this kind of technological activism has affected the technology of the internet itself. Tech activists are computer programmers that write and develop software for social justice projects. They recode it in a way that anticipates the goal of social change the project is trying to create. They are trying to create an alternate version of society based on technology being accessible, participatory, non-heirarchial, and democratic.

One of the key concepts of media literacy is, the media construct reality. The use of the internet for political change as a social justice tool, is a way of constructing a different reality from that of main stream use of the media. It allows us access to see things that affect our world that we might not otherwise be aware of and gives us some sense of power that we can be part of change. The internet used in this way, broadens the impact of this key concept and allows information coming to us on the internet not be one sided. Social activists and organizations use both oppositional reading and contextual reading. By deliberately opposing mainstream commercial imbalance use of cyberspace. They point out the way the internet technology is used in hierarchical, inaccessible ways to present a version of society that we are all fed. This is oppositional reading, an interpretation not intended by the creators of the image. Tech activists address power inequality by creating public and democratic space for online collaboration. This is an example of contextual reading, where the interpretation of the information presented is  bound up in the context in which the image is presented.

Another key concept of media is, media messages contain social and political implications. The events in Egypt in 2011 and 2013 are a clear examples of this. The Egyptian government tried to censor the use of Facebook, and shut down the internet as government protestors used all forms of social media. The shut down was unsuccessful. Protestors said that the internet gave them safe spaces to organize, voice concerns, and debate issues without fear of meetings being broken up by police.

The internet campaigns for social justice have been instrumental in freeing political prisoners, and bringing attention to atrocities happening in the world. This encourages us to take action and not just idley watch while people suffer. The internet has been instrumental in gathering support for Syrian refugees mobilizing funds and solutions.

Internet technology makes it very easy to get involved in issues that we care about. I have joined personal online campaigning with the Stephen Lewis Foundation. I was provided with a campaign page where I set a goal for something that I wanted to achieve and then was able to be sponsored for this by raising financial support for the Foundation, by sharing on Facebook. This raises awareness and money and a feeling that I am contributing to the greater good. I also found out about gift giving campaigns online and now give donations as gifts to my friends and family. For example through Plan Canada you can spend money on a gift in someone’s name that gives a goat to a family in Kenya, sends a girl to school and many other helpful things.

The internet can be a powerful tool for social justice and I encourage everyone to get involved.



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