Media activism

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Occupy Wall Street protesters in Zuccotti Park using their laptops, September 2011

Media activism is a broad category of activism that utilizes media and communication technologies for social and political movements. Methods of media activism include publishing news on websites, creating video and audio investigations, spreading information about protests, and organizing campaigns relating to media and communications policies.

Media activism can be used for many different purposes. It is often employed by grassroots activists and anarchists to spread information not available via mainstream media or to share censored news stories.[1] Certain forms of politically motivated hacking and net-based campaigns are also considered media activism. Often, the focus of media activism is to change policies relating to media and communications.[2]

Forms of media activism

Social media is often used as a form of media activism. Because of the interactive features and widespread adoption users can quickly disseminate information and rally supporters.[3] Platforms like Facebook and Twitter can reach a much larger audience than traditional media. Although often only a small percentage of people who express interest in a cause online are willing to commit to offline action, social media interaction is viewed as "the first step in a ladder of engagement".[4]"Social media has helped us organize without having leaders," said Victor Damaso, 22, demonstrating on São Paulo's main Paulista Avenue on Thursday night. "Our ideas, our demands are discussed on Facebook. There are no meetings, no rules".[5]

Live streams applications or websites such as Livestream is an other media form which can replace TV when there is a kind of censorship. The protests in Istanbul can be an example of this way of broadcasting in terms of the lack of the objectivity of the actual media and the television.[6] On the other hand, a lot of protestors used Whatsapp or Walkie-Talkie application with their smartphones in order to improve communication between protestors during the manifestations thanks to its quick and instantenious information share.[7] Moreover the usage of applications such as Whatsapp can increase the organisation of the protestors due to the group messages.[8]

YouTube is another efficient tool of spreading information. It is generally used with other social media forms such as Facebook and Twitter. The most important example to the media activism through YouTube can be the video of Kony which reached to one hundred million views in 6 days. Manifesting by using videos allows protesters to reach the whole world easier than just publishing in a local language.[9]

Culture jamming, another form of media activism, is a subversive strategy of protest that re-appropriates the tropes of mainstream media "in order to take advantage of the resources and venues they afford".[10]

Media activism has expanded its scope to include fields of study such as journalism and news media.[11] Media activism additionally educates the audience to be producers of their own media. Media activism to be expanded to facilitate action through media production and involvement.[12]

Case studies

Social Media has become a primary organizing tool for political and social movements globally.[13] They serve to strengthen already existing networks of political and social relationships among activists offline.[14] Media activism among youth can be linked to the way youth protest and create communities online over specific issues and social connections.[15]


Today nearly 32 percent of Venezuelan internet-users utilize social media on regular basis.[16]

Most recently, social media has been used politically to achieve success during elections, including the 2012 re-election campaign of President Hugo Chávez and the 2013 presidential campaign between Nicolás Maduro and Henrique Capriles Radonski. Social media was used to organize rallies and political platforms and had an impact on campaign content.[17] Opposition candidate Capriles used social media as an activist approach to "drum up" support and connect with voters politically.[18] This form of media activism connected most dominantly in the Venezuelan youth population—a generation considered to be tech-savvy.[17]

On March 14, 2013, Lourdes Alicia Ortega Pérez was imprisoned by the Scientific Penal and Criminal Investigation Corps of Venezuela for tweeting a message that was considered "destabilizing to the country".[19]

Arab Spring

Protesters in Egypt celebrate in Tahrir Square after President Mubarak announced his resignation.

The 2011 Arab Spring uprisings made extensive use of social media activism within the countries of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. These nations concentrated on the ability of the society to operate social media and begin organizing a grassroots initiative for a globalized form of democracy.[20] Arab youth population are described as "opening" societies through social media in places where governments are otherwise repressive.[21]

Egyptian protesters utilized social media to reduce the difficulties and cost associated with organizing rallies and a readily-mobilized political force.[22] This facilitation of assembly through social media allowed the creation of new gateways for civic engagement where Egypt had suppressed such opportunities under emergency power for the last 30 years.[22] This facilitation of assembly through social media allowed the creation of new gateways for civic engagement where Egypt had suppressed such opportunities under emergency power for the last 30 years.[22] This uprising led to violent conflict within each of the nations, and can thus media and media activism can be viewed as a fundamental contributor to the nation's new national identity under a new rule.[20]


China has strong censorship laws in place, where the press freedoms are not considered free, rather oppressive but improving.[23] Youth in China have worked towards stronger press freedoms online and a dedication to utilizing the principles of media activism.[24] Intensive civic conversation occurs online in China.[24] Youth satirized the government through what came to be known as "the River Crab critique," in turn spurring civic conversation on the internet. Media Activists in China used their online presence and freedom to alter images, such as Marilyn Monroe, to have the face of Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong. This image was coined as Maorilyn Maoroe, which in the image is juxtaposed next to a homophone for profanity. "Maorilyn Maoroe" was an opponent to the societal River Crab, which is a pun on "harmonious," a principle that Chinese censorship was created to promote, but has failed to do so.[25]

In China, youth and other media activists have discovered and utilized new methods to indirectly criticize the political and societal environments, going around the government censorship. Social media is among the newest method of critique. Activists use "microblogs" to critique the government.[26] Blogging can therefore be seen as a media activist approach to civic participation within the bounds of government censorship.

Occupy Wall Street

The Occupy Wall Street movement, which began during the fall of 2011, is another instance were social media largely contributed to the efforts of the initiative. Occupy Wall Street protesters capitalized on the tools of social media to spread awareness about the movement, to inform participants about organized meetings, rallies, and events, and to ultimately generate national news and mainstream media attention.

Suppression of media activism

States such as North Korea, Venezuela, and China have attempted to curtail media activism through a variety of tactics. The Chinese state engages in media censorship in the name of national harmony, although the Council on Foreign Relations argues that suppression of online activism is to protect authorities' political or economic interests.[27] In North Korea, the state curtails virtually all forms of digital communication, but a few transnational citizen-journalists have used technology like cell phones and thumb drives to communicate accurate news to citizens and abroad.[28]


See also


  1. Kim Deterline. "FAIR's Media Activism Kit". Retrieved December 19, 2012.
  2. Andors, Ph.D., Ellen (2012). The Task of Activist Media. Peoples Video Network.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Ed Carrasco (March 26, 2012). "How Social Media Has Helped Activism". New Media Rockstars. Retrieved December 19, 2012
  4. Sarah Kessler (October 9, 2010). "Why Social Media Is Reinventing Activism". Mashable. Retrieved December 19, 2012
  5. "Social media spreads and splinters Brazil protests". Reuters. 21 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Kantrowitz, Alex. Forbes Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Christine Harold (September 2004). "Pranking Rhetoric: "Culture Jamming" as Media Activism". Critical Studies in Media Communication 21 (3 ed.). pp. 189–211. Retrieved December 19, 2012
  11. "Media Activism". Burlington College. Retrieved 13 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Shirky, Clay. "The Political Power of Social Media". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 14 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Poell, Thomas. "Twitter as a multilingual space: The articulation of the Tunisian revolution through #sidibouzid". NECSUS. Retrieved 14 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Wolf, Linda (2001). Global Uprising: Confronting the Tyrannies of the 21st Century : Stories from a New Generation of Activists. New Society Publ.
  16. Golinger, Eva. "Internet Revolution in Venezuela |". | Venezuela News, Views, and Analysis. Retrieved 26 Mar. 2013
  17. 17.0 17.1 Forero, Juan (1 October 2012). "Venezuelan youth could decide if Chavez remains in power". Washington Post. Retrieved 14 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Capriles vs Chávez Online: Venezuela’s Social Media Split". Americas Society and Council of the Americas (AS/COA), 20 Aug. 2012. Web. 16 May 2013.
  19. Sonia, Doglio. "Venezuela: Twitter user detained for spreading “destabilizing” information - Global Voices Advocacy." Global Voices Advocacy - Defending free speech online.. Global Voices Advocacy, n.d. Web. 16 May 2013.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Khan, A. A (2012). "The Role Social of Media and Modern Technology in Arabs Spring". Far East Journal Of Psychology & Business. 7 (1): 56–63.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Khashaba, Karim. "Facebook: virtual impact on reality in the Middle East | openDemocracy". openDemocracy. Retrieved 2 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Pfiefle, Mark (14 June 2012). "Social Media and Political Activism". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 14 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Cook, Sarah. "China". Freedom House. Retrieved 14 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. 24.0 24.1 New Media Practices in China: Youth Patterns, Processes, and Politics. International Journal of Communication. 2011. pp. 406–436. |first= missing |last= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. R.L.G.. "Chinese censorship: Fǎ Kè Yóu, River Crab." The Economist, 7 June 2011. Web. 14 May 2013.
  26. Mead, Walter. "Social Media Endangers and Empowers China’s Activists." The American Interest, 5 Mar. 2013. Web. 3 May 2013.
  27. Bennett, Isabella. "Media Censorship in China". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 14 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Boynton, Robert (February 2011). "North Korea's Digital Underground". The Atlantic.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>