Inflammation and stories on Social Media

TikTok Brings Prosperity for Rural Farmers in China and IndiaSocial media app TikTok has turned some rural farmers in China and India into content-creating celebrities. The platform also provides many people with considerable income, giving some farmers an escape from poverty. However, it is uncertain whether this form of agricultural entrepreneurship will become widespread.

TikTok Brings Prosperity for Rural Farmers

TikTok is an app that allows users to watch, create and share short videos on their phones. Its parent company is ByteDance, based in Bejing. TikTok is quickly becoming one of the most used social media platforms. CNBC reports that by July 2020, TikTok had more than 680 million global users. TikTok’s popularity has spread even to rural areas, notably in China and India. In the past few years, many rural Chinese and Indian farmers have made profits, sometimes in the millions, from ad sponsorships and selling crops through the app.

Improved internet and smartphone access in rural China and India partially account for TikTok’s success among these farmers. According to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), 70.4% of China’s population had access to the internet in 2020. In just four years, between 2016 and 2020, internet access in rural areas went up nearly 23%. Of Chinese internet users, almost 100% use their phones to access the internet. While the number of internet users is smaller in India, there have been large increases in internet access. In 2020, India’s rural internet users increased 13% according to the ICUBE 2020 report. Now about 43% of India’s population has internet access and all active internet users use phones.

Visual Appeal and Good Timing

TikTok utilizes primarily audio and visuals, rather than text, allowing those with less education to easily navigate the platform. In China and India, there are education gaps in low-income agricultural areas. Thus, influencers in rural areas with low education have been able to create popular content. COVID-19 travel restrictions also necessitated that farmers find new ways to sell their goods. Many turned to video creation. Quarantine meant that more consumers were not only watching farmers’ TikTok videos but also desiring fresh produce for homecooked meals.

TikTok Stardom and Urbanization

TikTok provided several benefits to low-income rural farmers in China and India. TikTok allows growers to sell directly to consumers. This has been especially popular in China, where e-commerce is widely used. In addition to increased income, the possibility of TikTok stardom offers respect often denied to low-income rural people. The LA Times quotes rural Indian TikTok sensation Gaikwad, who states, “But I got respect, legitimacy and confidence. We are poor people. We have never received any attention in life. All we have gotten is disdain and scorn. TikTok turned it around.”

Agricultural TikTok videos enticed consumers too. The number of rural TikTokers boasting 10k+ followers was six times higher in 2019-2020 than it was in 2018-2019, Bloomberg reports. Videos of open spaces and abundant fields provide a quaint image of country living — a mental escape from bustling cities. This comes at a time in which people in China and India are continually moving into urban areas. Between 2000 and 2020, the percentage of China’s population living in urban areas increased about 26%, according to the World Bank. In India, the percentage of people in cities increased about 7% during that period.

TikTok Bans

While TikTok continues to benefit many Chinese farmers, India banned the use of TikTok on June 29, 2020, allegedly for national security reasons. This ban followed a 2019 ban, which the government claimed was due to TikTok’s lack of regulation regarding pornographic content. India lifted the 2019 ban after TikTok took down videos of concern. The 2020 ban however appears to be permanent. Indians cannot access their terminated accounts.

Other countries worldwide have also banned or are considering banning TikTok due to concerns about personal data security and possible inappropriate content. Because of this, it seems the platform may have a limited reach in rural areas outside China for now. China also has technological advantages that other developing nations do not yet have, including 56% internet accessibility in rural areas and a strong e-commerce system. Both contributed to Chinese farmers’ TikTok success.

Utilizing Creativity for Prosperity

Relying on TikTok as a means of income in low-income agricultural areas has its drawbacks. Yet, this phenomenon demonstrates how rural farmers in China and India can harness creativity, adapting to a changing world. Farmers found ways to share agricultural knowledge and convey humor, crossing class divides. After India banned TikTok, rural influencers quickly switched to other platforms, including YouTube, Instagram and Indian-based apps. While it may not be exclusively through TikTok, as internet and smartphone access increase, perhaps more gregarious growers will soon find abundance through social media.

– Annie Prafcke
Photo: Unsplash

Ways to support PalestineOn May 10, 2021, Hamas launched a rocket attack on Jerusalem in retaliation for recent police clashes. Subsequently, this led to over a week of ongoing violence leaving hundreds dead. While the history of this conflict is long and complicated, there are ways to support Palestine right now. With millions living in the region who do not have access to basic necessities such as clean water and electricity, support from the international community is vital.

Educating Oneself

The history of the conflict in Israel and Palestine is long and complicated, going back over 100 years. Therefore, one of the best ways to support Palestine is for one to garner education on what has led to the current circumstances. For example, a few good sources where people can learn the history of the conflict are:

  • The History Channel. The History Channel offers background on what is happening in the region as well as the history of how things got where they are.
  • Britannica. Britannica offers a deeper look at the Arab-Israeli wars that have happened since 1948 to show how violence has spread throughout the region.
  • The United Nations. The United Nations has a fact sheet about the history of “The Question of Palestine” which explains the international community’s role in the situation.

Economic Boycott

Another way to support Palestine is through targeted consumer boycotts. Some companies that benefit from the conflict include:

  • Hewlett-Packard. Hewlett-Packard (HP) is responsible for the biometric ID system that helps Israeli officials restrict the movement of Palestinians.
  • Sabra. The Strauss Group partially owns Sabra. This is an Israeli “company that provides financial support to the Israeli army.”
  • Pillsbury. In contrast to Sabra, Pillsbury has factories on occupied land that belongs to Palestinians.

Despite their involvement, none of these companies have issued a statement on the current conflict.

Contact Elected Officials

On April 15, 2021, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) introduced the Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act. This act would prohibit Israeli authorities from using U.S. funding in Palestinian detention camps, demolishing Palestinian homes and annexing further Palestinian lands. Contacting elected officials and urging their support for this bill is one of the most effective ways to support Palestine.

Share Palestinian Voices

Today, social media is an immensely effective tool that people can use to communicate with others across the globe. For instance, among the ways to support Palestine, sharing Palestinian voices on social media is one of the easiest to do. Additionally, some informational social media accounts to follow include:

Organizations Already Helping

There are, in fact, already many organizations finding ways to support Palestine. Some of these organizations include:

  • Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres. Services include remote counseling, supporting local hospitals and providing hygiene and sanitation training. Additionally, it has provided basic first aid training to hospital staff. Over 90,000 outpatient consultations occurred in 2019.
  • United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA). The UNWRA provides humanitarian aid such as education, healthcare and infrastructure improvement within 27 refugee camps throughout Gaza and the West Bank. With access to clean water and electricity at crisis levels, support from UNRWA is vital to the people in these camps.
  • Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. This organization provides medical care to sick and injured Palestinian children. To do this, it sends volunteer doctors overseas, sponsors orphans, runs humanitarian programs and works on infrastructure projects. Since its founding in 1992, PCRF has sent over 2,000 children abroad for free medical care and built two pediatric cancer departments in Palestine.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine goes back decades and has complicated roots. However, there are people in the area that need help now. The good news is that there are ways to support Palestine from right where you are. By educating oneself, donating, boycotting, contacting elected officials and sharing the voices of those in Palestine, anyone can help support the people who live there.

– Taryn Steckler-Houle
Photo: Flickr

introvert's guide to fighting global povertyThere is a common misconception that activism with a physical presence, like attending protests or lobbying, is the only kind that can make a difference. While these are effective ways to influence legislation, there are many other ways to create change and contribute to the fight against global poverty. An ordinary individual can play a role in creating global change by taking action online, without ever needing to leave their home. An introvert’s guide to fighting global poverty shows that anyone can contribute to addressing global issues regardless of personality type.

Fighting Poverty by Influencing Legislation

One of the most effective ways to help in the fight against poverty is to influence legislation. While lobbying is an effective way to do this, most U.S. congresspersons give their constituents the option to contact them by calling or emailing their offices. With the option to contact Congress in this way, constituents can voice their concerns easily and effectively.

Grassroot efforts such as calling and emailing Congress as well as advocacy helped pass integral pieces of legislation such as the Global Fragility Act and the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act. For an easy way to contact Congress about poverty-based legislation, interested persons can access a pre-filled email template from The Borgen Project.

Fighting Poverty Through Apps

Apps and social media movements can also be very effective tools in the fight against poverty. The World Food Programme (WFP) recognizes this and has created various apps through which users can help mitigate hunger in their spare time. With the Freerice app, users can earn rice for those in need just by answering trivia questions. The app earnings are supported by “in-house sponsors.” According to the WFP, Freerice has raised and donated 210 billion grains of rice since 2010.

Additionally, the WFP has created an app called ShareTheMeal. The meal donation app aims to improve food security throughout the world. With a click of a button, an ordinary individual can contribute to a day’s worth of meals for a child at the cost of just $0.80. Through ShareTheMeal, more than 115 million meals have been provided to those in need as of July 16, 2021.

Knowing the Facts

While it may not seem like the most effective form of activism, one of the easiest ways to spread awareness about an issue is to talk about it within one’s social network. But, in order to effectively discuss global issues, an individual should familiarize themself with the facts.

Some of the most well-known humanitarian organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization, offer educational resources about hunger, health and poverty. To expand awareness into one’s social network, it is important to know these facts and statistics.

Every year, the WHO publishes a World Health Statistics report. In the 2021 report, the WHO describes the connection between exacerbated poverty and COVID-19 as well as the way that diseases like tuberculosis can impact poverty due to a lack of healthcare.

By understanding the nuances of global poverty, one can become a more informed advocate for a global issue, increasing the power of influence and the likelihood of persuading friends and family to support legislation.

Looking Forward: Advocacy, Education and Mobilization

With these methods in mind, one of the most effective ways to be an activist from home is to mobilize within one’s own social network. By ensuring that friends and family are also advocating for a cause, one can effectively create a much larger web of support for a cause.

An introvert’s guide to fighting global poverty shows that there are vast ways to support global issues without needing to step out of one’s comfort zone. Whether one is voicing support for particular pieces of legislation or whether an individual uses one of the many apps that help alleviate hunger, garnering more supporters will ultimately help sustain a grassroots effort and fight global poverty.

– Samuel Weinmann
Photo: Unsplash

Olympics Forward Fashion

The 2020 Olympics officially started on July 23, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. During the traditional opening ceremony, countries participated in a commencement parade dawning various outfits and garments that paid homage to their home countries and cultures. Following this event, the world’s audience became interested in these cultures and used the internet to learn more about them. The forward fashion at the Olympics was especially interesting to viewers of the games. As a result, international poverty-based nonprofits and tourism websites have seen heavy traffic, which will help the economies of dozens of nations.

The 2020 Olympics Opening Ceremony

The Olympic Games have continued to be the most anticipated sporting event across the globe. After the pandemic-induced delay of the 2020 games, the world can finally watch the events it has waited five years for. According to VOA News, more than 17 million people watched the opening ceremony. 

Millions of viewers appreciated the outfits of the athletes. Competitors wore dazzling cultural garments to represent their ethnicities and home regions. For example, AP News highlighted the beautiful outfits adorned by representatives from Iran, Cameroon, the Virgin Islands and other nations. They called the affair “a mosaic of cultures and fashions and traditions.” Viewers reviewing and commenting on the parade flooded popular social media outlets like TikTok and Twitter, with hashtags like #OlympicsOutfits trending.

How the Fashion Boosted Poverty Related Research

After the opening ceremony concluded, Google searches for countries like Kenya and Ghana skyrocketed. According to Google Trends, these countries received a 20% boost in searches across the globe. In turn, websites promoting tourism and aid to these nations also experienced heavy web traffic. This was a significant and much-needed boost since the pandemic diminished these essential international discussions. Organizations like UNICEF and the World Bank also had more site visitors than average.

Multiple articles also highlighted the cultural importance of the athletes’ outfits. News about the clothing trended worldwide. While some media firms praised the fashion of the ceremony, others scrutinized the seemingly lackluster outfits from Italy and the U.S.

How Poverty Will Diminish as a Result

As more and more people continue to research the Olympics forward fashion, expectations have determined that poverty could decrease globally. Of course, a rise in tourism will help a country’s economy, but furthermore, the positive cultural representation will also relieve impoverished conditions in a myriad of regions.

According to the Community Action Programme on Social Exclusion, optimistic outlooks on a nation and culture can alter the probability that countries enter an impoverished state. Without a positive viewpoint of the region and its people, countries are less likely to have policy development in government. Further, these countries get less international appreciation, which leads to the migration of the rich and a sinking economy for the poor. However, with further representation in the Olympics and continued research from the international audience, appreciation of the teams’ cultures is likely to spread across the world. Whether or not the Olympics forward fashion will continue to be a hot topic, the impacts of cultural knowledge will last.

– Laken Kincaid
Photo: Unsplash

Tackling Postpartum Depression in JordanIn recent years, there has been a multitude of technological innovations implemented in low-to-middle income countries (LMICS) to alleviate poverty and enhance health outcomes. However, mental health, and specifically maternal mental health, has been largely unaddressed. Postpartum depression (PPD) is one of the most common complications of childbearing and disproportionately affects women in LMICs. In Jordan, postpartum depression affects approximately 22% of women. Furthermore, the rate of mothers experiencing mild PPD is even higher, affecting 1 in 2 women. With its flourishing influence, social media has the ability to facilitate psychological support and health education. Popular online platforms present a key opportunity to support Jordanian mothers’ experiences with PPD.

Social Media As A Promising Tool for Public Health

Agencies and relief programs have struggled to identify and develop effective intervention programs for risk factors associated with mental illness. Social media is increasingly used in Jordan, and its influence continues to rise. According to a Pew Research Center study on social media use in developing countries, 8 out of 10 Jordanian adults report using social networking sites- meaning that of the 8 people who use the internet, 94% are active on social media. These rates are higher than among even adults in the US, where only 69% use social networks.

One of the most predominant risk factors for PPD among Jordanian mothers is the lack of social support due to stigma. Social media is uniquely poised to provide social support and reduce feelings of isolation in post-partum mothers. This presents a key opportunity to alleviate the prevalence of postpartum depression in Jordan.

With the large presence of social media in Jordan, pursuing social media for mental health surveillance, research and prevention can be very efficacious. Recent innovative research has revealed social networking sites as a promising tool for public health. Using networking platforms and monitoring posts, postpartum changes and behaviors of mothers have been identified. Other noted uses include dimensions of emotion, social engagement, social network and linguistics patterns.

Observing and engaging mothers’ presence on social media presents an opportunity to use social media to identify women at risk of postpartum depression, which is significantly underreported among many populations. A survey study has shown that the adoption of social media sites can help postpartum women in developing countries to feel more secure and confident while seeking advice and information related to mental health struggles. Additionally, a California State University study revealed the positive impact on individuals that experience postpartum depression, finding that most participants reported social media offered emotional, informative and validating support.

Supporting Through Social Media

On the ground, organizations are making strides to relieve the prevalence of PPD in Jordan through social media. Via online platforms, Jordanian mothers can open up about their experiences. Mariella Suleiman is part of Postpartum Support International (PSI) – Jordan, an organization that provides resources, education and advocacy for research and legislation to support perinatal mental health. Recently, she spoke with the Borgen Project. She said, “Sometimes they [women] just don’t know what’s going on. Understanding what is happening [expiriencing PPD symptoms] and that that can be normal, is already a big relief.”d

PSI Jordan’s social media accounts are an easily accessible and effective way to distribute information. These accounts provide reliable services. Additionally, they offer a sense of support for mothers who may be fearful of opening up to close family or friends. Along with a team of volunteers and a local psychologist, Mariella leads support groups. There, they provide new mothers with a safe, non-judgemental space for them to open up about their mental health struggles. As PSI-Coordinator of Jordan, she started a Facebook and Instagram page and posts awareness videos. Moreover, she collaborates with local “mom bloggers” and celebrities to raise awareness of PPD and connect with mothers.

Mariella discussed the stigma surrounding maternal mental illness and postpartum depression in Jordan and the challenges of finding support with little existing access to therapy. This highlights the importance of support groups and facilitating dialogue for women to open up without fear of discrimination.

During COVID-19, feelings of loneliness and isolation are at their peak for mothers struggling with PPD and anxiety. However, PSI Jordan continues to shine a light on this issue and support these mothers via online video platforms. Mothers can attend every Saturday, and they discuss topics related to mental health and parenting while supporting each other. They continue to receive very positive feedback from the women involved. Mariella and PSI Jordan gave women the ability to organize themselves into a network that educates women about leaning on, supporting and empowering themselves and each other.

Looking Forward

When describing the positive impact of support groups, Mariella stated, “Just knowing that there are other moms there and then just listening to each other- it makes a big difference.” Social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram can complement the work of organizations. By using online community support groups to connect, mothers experiencing PPD can provide each other with support systems. Providing access to support groups through social media is a key approach that can help struggling mothers around the world.

Samantha Johnson
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 misinformationOne of the issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic is misinformation about COVID-19 on social media. The spread of misinformation can resemble the spread of a virus. In an interconnected era, information and misinformation on social media and the internet can spread exponentially. COVID-19 misinformation can be dangerous when it impacts human behavior in a way that puts people at higher risk of transmission.

Misinformation and COVID-19

Fighting COVID-19 means fighting its transmission through the use of masks and gloves and social distancing. However, a 2020 research study conducted by Harvard Kennedy School examines COVID-19 misinformation and how it impacts human behavior during the pandemic. The study found a link between misinformation about COVID-19 and lower use of social distancing measures: “We thus draw a clear link from misinformation circulating on social media, notably Twitter, to behaviors and attitudes that potentially magnify the scale and lethality of COVID-19.” However, if social media is perceived as part of the problem, it can also be part of the solution.

COVID-19 in Nepal

Nepal has been strongly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers Nepal a high-risk country to travel to in terms of COVID-19 levels, suggesting that travelers avoid all travel to the country. The CDC deems Nepal level 4, the highest designation for COVID-19 risk.

The Asian Development Bank predicted that the onset of COVID-19 would reduce Nepal’s GDP by 0.13% and leave almost 16,000 people unemployed. Nepal’s tourism sector, which contributes 8% to the economy, has been severely hit. Tourism has declined significantly from 70% pre-pandemic to less than 10%. COVID-19’s harsh economic impacts have left the country struggling to recover. As impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic quickly spread, so has COVID-19 misinformation.

Youth Collaboration

The Volunteer for Action (V4Action) group is a collaborative effort by the U.N. Volunteers program, UNICEF, the UNDP, the WHO and the U.N. Resident Coordinator’s Office (UNRCO). It was launched on March 19, 2020, and the group consists of more than 500 youth volunteers across Nepal with the collective goal of curbing COVID-19 misinformation in Nepal.

The tasks of the group include sharing verified and accurate information about COVID-19 on social media platforms and reporting COVID-19 misinformation in Nepal on UNICEF’s Joint Fight Against Misinformation rumor-tracking platform. In total, more than 100 myths were sent to the UNICEF misinformation platform for debunking. Personalizing the response to cater to the demographic, the volunteers made informative videos in local languages to provide COVID-19 education to people.

Social Media to Fight COVID-19

Overall, V4Action harnesses the power of the youth and social media in influencing the public in a positive way. In addition to debunking inaccurate information about the pandemic, the V4Action volunteers also conducted online research. They efficiently tracked online rumors about COVID-19 using surveys and reported them accordingly.

On one hand, social media can be used to spread misinformation and incite panic. On the other hand, social media can help educate populations on important issues. The V4Action volunteers had an essential role in educating the Nepalese population during the COVID-19 pandemic. They used social media to connect with the population and share fundamental information to limit the transmission of COVID-19. Perhaps, more importantly, they underlined the importance of mental health awareness, solidarity and unity during challenging times.

Soizic Lecocq
Photo: Flickr

human trafficking during COVID-19The United Nations has warned of a recent increase in human trafficking taking place through social media. According to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) perpetrators are approaching victims on social media and messaging platforms. Experts correlate this surge of online human trafficking with the lockdowns governments have implemented to combat COVID-19 that has left millions of people jobless and struggling to survive.

The Human Trafficking Crisis

Human trafficking has long posed a threat to the safety and well-being of the world’s most vulnerable populations. The U.N. has stated that between 2017 and 2018, approximately 75,000 trafficking victims were identified in 110 countries. During this period, 70% of victims were female, 77% of whom were then trafficked for sexual exploitation and 14% for forced labor.

There are several factors that make a person more vulnerable to human trafficking. The most pressing factor, however, is financial struggles or poverty.

Online Human Trafficking and COVID-19

Human trafficking is on the rise as millions are made desperate by the economic consequences of COVID-19. People employed in informal sectors have been particularly impacted by layoffs, while earlier this year migrant workers were left stranded far from home when borders closed and travel bans were implemented. According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic will result in global extreme poverty increasing for the first time in two decades, pushing as many as 150 million people into poverty by 2021.

The impact, however, will be felt the hardest by females. As a result of the pandemic, 47 million more women and girls will be pushed into extreme poverty. Estimates even predict that globally, for every 100 men living in poverty in 2030, there could be as many as 121 women.

Besides  COVID-19’s economic consequences, traffickers have also benefited from the fact that people are spending more time online during lockdowns. While traffickers have usually operated with a great deal of impunity, the internet allows for easier access to vulnerable populations as well as the benefits of anonymity and false identities.

Addressing Human Trafficking During COVID-19

Human trafficking is a global problem but despite the scale of the threat and the advantages that perpetrators have during COVID-19, governments can take action to protect vulnerable groups, especially women and girls.

In an appeal to social media and messaging companies, CEDAW recommended that safety controls be set up to reduce the risk of exposing women and girls to trafficking and sexual exploitation. CEDAW has called upon online platforms to use data, artificial intelligence and analytics to identify possible patterns that could lead to trafficking. It also urges platforms to “put in place the appropriate governance structure and procedures which will allow them to be reactive in their response and provide the relevant level of information to the concerned authorities.”

CEDAW also urged governments to resolve the underlying issues that allow human trafficking to flourish. These issues include sex-based discrimination, economic insecurity, conflict and unsafe conditions for migrants and displaced people.

In addition, the United Nations has urged national governments to ensure that services for trafficking victims and survivors stay open during lockdowns and that the rights of migrant and informal workers are protected by labor laws. Finally, investments in programs for women’s economic empowerment are encouraged as a means of mitigating the disproportionate economic impacts on females. With the appropriate measures in place, human trafficking during COVID-19 can be prevented.

– Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

beirut explosionOn Aug. 4th, 2020, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the port in Beirut, Lebanon. This disaster killed more than 180 people, injured over 5,000 and displaced more than 250,000 people. The Beirut explosion also led to more than $10 billion  in damage in the surrounding areas. After the deadly Beirut explosion, countless celebrities shared tributes. Many also donated or directed their followers to donate to various relief efforts. Here are 10 celebrities who helped Beirut after the August explosion.

10 Celebrities Who Helped After the Beirut Explosion

  1. George and Amal Clooney: The power couple donated $100,000 to three charities helping with relief efforts. These included the Lebanese Red Cross, Impact Lebanon and Baytna Baytak. The latter organization aimed to provide relief to Lebanese people in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, after the explosion, the group became more focused on finding shelter for people made homeless or dislocated. In an online statement referencing this organization, the Clooneys said, “We’re both deeply concerned for the people of Beirut and the devastation they’ve faced in the last few days. We will be donating to these charities $100,000 and hope that others will help in any way they can.”
  2. Madonna: The pop singer and two of her children, David Banda and Mercy James, hosted an art sale and donated the proceeds to Impact Lebanon. The organization works with the Lebanese Red Cross to provide aid to victims affected by the blast. Madonna and her family made tie-dye shirts and paintings to raise money, which the singer posted on Instagram.
  3. Rihanna: The singer and businesswoman took to Twitter to persuade her followers to donate to four charities helping with relief in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion. These included Impact Lebanon, Save The Children, the Sadalsuud Foundation and Preemptive Love. Save The Children helps children and families displaced and injured by the disaster. Rihanna’s support for the Sadalsuud Foundation will help it foster community strength and growth through education and baking. Finally, Preemptive Love is a peacemaking and peacebuilding coalition designed to bring an end to violence and war and affect people affected by disasters.
  4. Bella Hadid: The model, whose father is from Lebanon, donated to 13 charities in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion. These included the Lebanese Red Cross, Offre Joie, Impact Lebanon, Bank To School, Arc En Ciel, Bassma, Sesobel and Nusaned. Previously, Hadid has donated to Save The Children, Preemptive Love, UNICEF, International Medical Corps and the Lebanese Food Bank. She also directed her Instagram followers to donate, urging them toward local charities to help pinpoint community needs. Lastly, Hadid has vowed to continue donating.
  5. The Weeknd: The singer donated $300,000 to Global Aid for Lebanon, which supports the World Food Programme, the Lebanese Red Cross and the Children’s Cancer Centre Lebanon. The Weeknd’s donation comes after his manager, Wassim Slaiby, and Slaiby’s wife, Rima Fakih, led efforts for donations. On Instagram, Slaiby thanked The Weeknd for his donation. She also thanked Live Nation, including CEO Michael Rapino, for donating $50,000 to relief efforts.
  6. Rima Fahik and Wassim “Sal” Slaiby: The former Miss USA and her business manager husband, both from Lebanon, launched a campaign with Global Citizen to help in the aftermath of the Beirut Explosion. The fund supports Red Cross Lebanon, the United Nations World Food Programme and the Children’s Cancer Center of Lebanon. The couple kicked off the initiative by donating $250,000.
  7. Russell Crowe: The actor donated $5,000 to the destroyed restaurant Le Chef, which had resided in the Gemmayze neighborhood of Beirut since 1967. On his Twitter page, Crowe said he donated to this restaurant in honor of his late friend, Anthony Bordain. While Bordain was filming his show “No Reservations” in 2006, he visited the restaurant.
  8. Jose Andres: The World Central Kitchen founder and celebrity chef mobilized a team in Beirut and partnered with chef Kamal Mouzawak. Together, they gave out over 800 sandwiches and meals to healthcare workers, first responders and elderly citizens. The organization states that its efforts provided thousands of additional meals to those in need in Beirut. Lastly, it hoped to give people what they needed to stimulate the local economy once again.
  9. Mia Khalifa: The media personality, sports commentator and former adult actress auctioned the trademark glasses that she wore in her adult films to support Lebanon after the explosion. She donated all proceeds to the Lebanese Red Cross. The bidding ended on Aug. 16, with the top bid at $100,000.
  10. Harry Styles: The former One Direction member donated to Impact Lebanon, directing his Twitter followers to do the same. He then tweeted out a link through the crowdfunding site JustGiving. Style’s fundraising effort has so far raised close to $8.1 million for people impacted by the disaster.

While the damage and casualties in Beirut were extensive, celebrities and figures from around the world came together to help after the Beirut explosion. Moreover, many of these celebrities are helping Beirut continue to come together for not only economic but also personal reasons.

– Bryan Boggiano
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Young creatives
Without a doubt, the surge of the internet has created many waves in the way that people live their everyday lives. From ride-sharing apps to Instagram stories to trendy Tiktok dances, it seems like social media has overwhelmed every aspect of modern life, working particularly hard to keep people connected through an unprecedented time of social distancing. However, it is not just the mundane that has changed with the dawn of the online age; young creatives have used the internet to completely reimagine modern activism.

The Age of Digital Activism

Digital activism, defined as the use of digital tools (i.e. the internet, mobile phones, social media, etc.) for bringing about social and/or political change, is hardly a new phenomenon. As of 2018, the Pew Research Center found that around half of all Americans had engaged in some form of political or social activism via social media over the past year. They also found the majority of Americans believed that social media was a good tool for bringing important global issues to the attention of lawmakers. It is more than likely that these statistics have grown over the past several years, particularly in the culmination of movements such as the March for our Lives, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. It does not take very long to come up with countless examples of online activism.

More recently, however, a new trend has grown popular among young creatives on Instagram: zines. Zines are self-published, non-commercial print works that are typically produced and distributed in small batches by artists looking to share their work. While they have been a part of youth pop culture for many years now, a group of young women have taken it into their own hands to shift that paradigm.

The Birth of More Color Media

In early June of 2020, Aissata Sall, a recent high school graduate, single-handedly launched her independent publication, More Color Media. From the very beginning, Sall wanted this project to be different from what had been done already; she wanted to tell the stories that were not already being told. Within just 10 short weeks, the small project gained nearly 5,000 followers across multiple platforms and exploded into a team of nearly 100 creatives, all using their talents from photography to poetry to bring global issues of poverty, education and inequality to light in a new, innovative way.

“We have team members from Estonia, France, North Africa — everywhere!” Sall said in an interview with The Borgen Project on August 14th of 2020. “It’s just been amazing to see how many people we’ve reached and how many people have reached out to us to tell us how happy they are with the space and the platform we’ve created. That’s the biggest accomplishment in our eyes.”

This new platform has created a unique way for young creatives to share information, with eye-catching graphics and stunning photography all utilized to draw attention to global issues from Venezuela to Lebanon to Serbia. Many of these posts include thorough factsheets and sources, allowing viewers to digest news from around the world and quickly find resources to help. By just sharing informational posts, fund pages and petitions to lawmakers regarding specific issues, More Color Media has reportedly reached over 30,000 individual audience members across all of their platforms.

“We want to provide more platforms for us to be able to support people in our communities and in the global community,” explained Diana Sinclair, the co-Editor-in-Chief of More Color Media. “We’ve already been using our platform to highlight individual funds to help reach people’s needs. We’ve also talked a lot about opening up other platforms like a podcast to help give a greater voice to the communities we want to support.”

A New Generation of Activists

While they continue to grow, More Color Media may very well represent the future of digital activism, serving to show that there is no limit on who can make a difference. According to RESET, an organization working to help advance the next generation into the digital age, one of the biggest benefits of digital activism is the ability to connect with a large community and globalize a campaign’s goals. More Color Media is doing just that. More Color Media’s first print issue is fast approaching, with a release date tentatively in late September, and both Sall and Sinclair are waiting eagerly with bated breath.

To learn more about More Color Media, visit their website, www.morecolormedia.com, or check them out on Instagram at @MoreColorMedia.

– Angie Bittar
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

DouyinWhen the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) first emerged in Wuhan, a metropolitan city located in China’s Hubei province, the Chinese government took strict measures to contain the infection. Less than two weeks after the first recorded death linked to COVID-19 occurred, Chinese authorities declared the entire city under lockdown with the rest of the province following suit in just a matter of days. This caused a severe economic downturn, but the Douyin app presents an unlikely solution.

Despite Chinese health officials now deeming the country fit to reopen, many small and medium-sized businesses worry that they cannot resume business as usual after suffering from the unexpected closures. Considering that these small and medium-sized businesses make up more than 60% of the country’s overall gross domestic product (GDP), their potential failure sets China’s economy at a severe decline.

ByteDance, a Chinese multinational technology company, devised a method to assist small-business owners affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Using the popularity of ByteDance’s most well-known app, Douyin, to their advantage, small and medium-sized business owners will be allowed to reopen their markets to a broader audience. And in turn, Douyin can help reignite China’s economy.

What is Douyin?

Douyin is a Chinese social media app that allows its users to create and share brief clips that often include people lip-syncing, playing practical jokes, or participating in viral challenges. The app was developed by ByteDance, the aforementioned Chinese multinational technology company, and released into the Chinese market in September 2016. The app rapidly gained popularity and now has more than 1 billion downloads worldwide, with 500 million monthly active users. In 2017, ByteDance released TikTok, another social media app with a similar function to Douyin but for global markets.

How Does Douyin Differ From TikTok?

Despite having similar logos and content, Douyin and TikTok are indeed two different applications geared towards different audiences. On the one hand, TikTok was intended for global markets, while Douyin was only aimed at Chinese markets. This is why Tiktok is not available for download within Chinese app stores in the same way that Douyin is not available on app stores outside of China, such as the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store. Additionally, the apps have different policies regarding censorship on specific topics. While you may find countless parodies mocking U.S. political leaders on TikTok, no such mockery exists within Douyin. Instead, propaganda that promotes the overall message of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and attempts to rally nationalistic sentiment populates Douyin.

How Can Watching Short Videos Rebuild an Entire Market?

As mentioned previously, Douyin has a massive fanbase with more than 500 million monthly active users. Of these 500 million people, 52.8% are less than 24 years of age. Often, these millennials will share ideas and products that they think others will find appealing. Thus, when merchants have a platform integrated within Douyin that allows them to advertise and sell their products quickly, they will be able to reignite their businesses. As a result, Douyin can help China’s economy by allowing these small and medium-sized businesses to promptly resume their operations.

Why Douyin Instead of Conventional E-Commerce Platforms?

Popular e-commerce platforms are notorious for their high commission rates. Hence, when ByteDance first established its online group buying function, it aimed to create a “zero threshold” environment for the small and medium-sized online business platforms. This meant that ByteDance’s technical service commission would be as low as 1%, a significantly lower rate than the usual 20% charge traditional e-commerce platforms would require. This way, the businesses will be able to restore themselves quickly.

Despite the hardships China had to endure in the wake of the initial COVID-19 outbreak, companies like ByteDance continue to use their influence in order to help those who have suffered the most. As a result, the Chinese economy continues to steadily improve, showing the world how powerful social media can be.

Heather Law
Photo: Flickr