Inflammation and stories on Social Media

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

TikTok ActivismYemen’s humanitarian crisis is routinely categorized as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Over the last five years, from when the Yemeni Civil War launched the emergency, children have been hit the hardest. Tens of thousands of children have died, not only from the conflict but also due to preventable diseases and malnutrition. UNICEF estimates that about 80% of Yemen’s population is in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Because children are among the most affected by the crisis, four out of every five children (about 12.3 million) require help. TikTok activism, spearheaded by millennials and Gen Z, has been instrumental in bringing awareness to this pressing issue.

Though this crisis certainly isn’t new, its importance has become increasingly relevant on social media, and perhaps just in time. With the outbreak of the coronavirus, Yemen is facing a twofold crisis. There is a short supply of clean water, sanitation, and necessary protective equipment. Not only are many healthcare facilities closed or out of operation, but many health workers aren’t being paid. If there was a greater time to bring to light the severity of what’s going on in Yemen, it appears to be now.

Social Media Activism

With 90 percent of people aged 18-29 using at least one social media site, Millennials and Gen Z rule the internet. Different social media apps have evolved to have a specific brand of content. For example, Instagram is a place for aesthetically and visually pleasing pictures. TikTok became famous for dance trends and short, funny videos. Twitter is known for its 480 character-long quippy remarks.

In recent months, young adults and teens have used apps like Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram for more than status updates. Instead, they’ve cleverly utilized the apps’ algorithms to spread the word of issues that are important to them, one of which is the crisis in Yemen. According to research done by Pew Research Center, 44 percent of people aged 18-29 “encouraged others to take action on issues that are important to them.” This is exemplified in the way these young adults are advocating and rallying to end the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Activism on TikTok

User @_mennabarakaa is an example of TikTok activism. She posted a video to her TikTok account performing dance moves that have become nearly synonymous with the app. In front of the dance moves, she posted facts about the crisis in Yemen and encouraged followers to donate. The video was viewed over 141,000 times and has received around 25,000 likes.

This is not the first TikTok on the subject that has gone viral. Another, posted by Jinan, known as @jinanchwdhury on TikTok, started off a “hair reveal,” teasing users by pretending to take off her hijab. Instead, she cut to photos and facts about Yemen. Both videos were 60 seconds or less.

@jinanchwdhury

#fyp #hijabi #foryou #foryoupage #DazItUp #prideicon #activist #blm #blacklivesmatter #savetheuighurs #uighurmuslims #yemen #saveyemen #yemencrisis

♬ never be the same slowed – newslowedsongz

Jinan, who currently has 53.3K followers on TikTok, started using her account for activism because she felt stuck offline.

“I initially posted content on the Yemen crisis because I wished to help however I could,” she wrote via Instagram direct messages. Since she was a teenager, she felt there wasn’t much she could do. “I tried to sign as many petitions as I could, and I thought that using my voice and raising awareness is a crucial way for me to do my part.”

TikTok has been essential in how she’s advocated for other teenagers to do what they can to help the Yemen crisis. She reposts content she finds helpful on Twitter and Instagram, and her TikTok is where she puts content into her own words.

TikTok’s algorithm

TikTok’s algorithm, which is based partly on how an individual user interacts with content, also pushes videos with certain hashtags. This is good news for TikTok activism creators like Jinan. If their videos end up on a user’s page because the poster utilized popular hashtags (like Jinan did in her hijab video), the user may interact with that video. As a result, they’re more likely to see similar TikToks. This algorithm is something that Jinan has used to her advantage.

She believes the app’s algorithm makes it easier for her content to get seen. “The reason why I started activism on TikTok was to maximize the amount of people I could reach and raise awareness to.” And it works — her videos consistently rake in thousands of view. Jinan’s video on the Yemen crisis received over 440 thousand views.

“I’m so grateful that [the Yemen video] reached hundreds of thousands of people,” Jinan wrote. “I feel as though I did as much as I could by raising awareness to so many people.”

Activism on Instagram

This new wave of social media activism isn’t limited to TikTok. Journalist Mary Retta claims “the Instagram Article” has used aesthetics to their advantage and spread activist content to users who otherwise wouldn’t engage in it. Accounts like @soyouwanttotalkabout and @impact package information through short, 7-to-10-page slideshows that feature fun colors and fonts. This beautification of the news, while different from a typical article, is effective in its goal. The accounts have 1.2 million and 455 thousand followers, respectively, and are just two of many similar pages. Instagram is also a completely free app. Information on global health crises is not locked behind a paywall like it is for other mainstream news services.

This social media revolution of sorts is a huge development in the involvement of young adults and teenagers for issues such as global poverty. By crafting content catered to be successful on specific apps, more and more young adults are not only raising awareness for these issues but also encouraging others to do what they can.

Sophie Grieser
Photo: Flickr

Social Media and COVID-19Three of the most prominent social media sites have taken steps to help with the coronavirus pandemic: TikTok, Instagram and Facebook have integrated unique techniques into their platforms to raise awareness and money for international COVID-19 relief. They are encouraging their users to utilize the platforms to raise money for their coronavirus fundraisers. Here are a few ways that these social media platforms are helping out with COVID-19 aid.

Facebook

Facebook has supported coronavirus relief in many ways. One way in which it has helped is through hosting the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization (WHO). Facebook pledged to match donations up to $20 million, and the platform ended up raising over $6 million on its site for WHO’s global efforts to fight the pandemic. They also donated $25 million to frontline healthcare workers.

Another way in which Facebook has helped with the pandemic is through the distribution of information and resources available. They have invested $100 million into the news industry and have supported fact checkers to make sure that coronavirus information is correct and to reduce misinformation distribution. Recognizing that social media and COVID-19 relief ought to work in tandem, they have also allowed global health organizations to utilize advertisement space free of cost to disperse information. Overall, Facebook has taken many steps towards aiding global organizations and providing resources for coronavirus aid.

TikTok

TikTok has been at the forefront of social media and COVID-19 efforts internationally. Content creators, for one, have posted inspirational messages for healthcare workers and spread awareness on resources available to people.

One of the most substantial ways that TikTok has started helping with relief aid, though, is through the concept of donation stickers. These stickers are interactive and embedded straight into videos and lives on users’ channels, allowing them to donate through Tiltify, a charitable fundraising platform. The stickers are currently available in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, and Italy.

TikTok has focused on highlighting COVID-19 focused charitable foundations with these stickers. Through the utilization of the campaign #doubletheimpact and the donation stickers, TikTok has matched up to $10 million in donations for these organizations. With these stickers, hundreds of thousands of users were able to raise money for foundations and nonprofit organizations.

Instagram

As social media and COVID-19 relief can only vary so much, Instagram has also answered the call for action through interactive fundraising on its platform. Similar to the donation stickers utilized by TikTok, Instagram uses a form of donation sticker to allow users to donate towards specific organizations, with over a million to choose from.

Another specific way that Instagram has allowed fundraising is through the live feature. Through Instagram Lives, users are able to interact with comments and encourage donations to organizations right on videos. Previously, nonprofits were unable to fundraise via that platform; during the pandemic, though, Instagram has allowed these organizations to utilize the technology to raise money in this time of need. One hundred percent of all fundraising on the platform goes towards the organizations, with Instagram taking none of it. As the platform is owned by Facebook, the company has promised to match up to $10 million in donations.

During this time, Instagram has highlighted organizations with a focus on the COVID-19 pandemic. Influencers across the world have utilized this platform to give back to everyday people as well, in cash amounts ranging in the thousands. Fitness influencer Katie Sturino and friends pooled together $6,000 to give to those in need during the pandemic.

Social Media and COVID-19

These companies have shown the power of social media platforms and how users and companies can come together to make a real impact on coronavirus aid efforts. With the importance of social media in this day and age, utilizing it to help raise money for COVID-19 is an important role that Facebook, TikTok and Instagram have taken up. Fundraising is still continuing, and contributions towards awareness and funding is a battle that we all can continue supporting.

-Kiana Powers
Photo: WikiMedia

Impact global poverty
Many non-governmental organizations that work to fight global poverty ask for donations, including The Borgen Project. When someone is living paycheck to paycheck, even donating a dollar can seem like too much. In 2017, about 78% of workers in the United States reported that they are living paycheck to paycheck. What can individuals do if they want to make an impact but don’t feel they have the capital to do so? Here are five ways to impact global poverty without spending money.

Stay Informed

The United Nations published a piece called “The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World.” One of the organization’s recommendations of something everyone can do from their couch is to stay informed on the issues they want to impact. Unfortunately, misinformation can actually harm global poverty. The UN Foundation reported that many people think global poverty has been increasing when, in actuality, it has been cut in half. Staying informed is important in recognizing the common myths about global poverty and informing others.

Volunteer Time

The Face and Voices of Recovery Organization, the Charities Aid Foundation and the UN recommend volunteering as a way to impact causes without spending money. In 2018, the Charities Aid Foundation reported that 39% of people in the United States volunteered their time. In addition, UN volunteers wrote that volunteering can be formal or informal. People can work directly with an organization to impact global poverty, like offering to create digital media for the cause. Alternatively, they can work informally by putting posters about the cause around their community.

Spread Awareness

Another way to impact global poverty is by spreading awareness. In addition to volunteering, the organizations above suggest sharing information about the cause on social media. Heather Weathers, the director of communications at HopeKids Incorporation, wrote a report about how social media is a place where people can first get involved with supporting a cause. Of those who are social media supporters, 37% use those sites to learn more about the organization and cause they’re supporting.

Call and/or Email Congress

If you speak up, your local legislators will keep track. Every time someone calls or emails about a specific bill, Congress members keep a tally of the number of people who voiced support for or rejected the bill. You can find your representatives by putting your ZIP code into the House of Representatives’s “Find Your Representatives” page. The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote an article providing tips for anyone considering calling Congress. The article reported that reaching out to local representatives, researching the issue first and being concise are some good ways to go about calling Congress. Similarly, there is a wealth of templates online for anyone interested in emailing Congress, including The Borgen Project website.

Inspire Others to Give

There are also ways to impact global poverty by convincing others to donate. One donation strategy, for which Facebook created a platform in 2017, is the concept of donating your birthday. This process includes choosing an organization and asking people to donate through either an online platform or fundraising letters. From 2018 to 2019, Facebook birthday donations raised about $1 billion for charities.

Even when someone is unable to fight against poverty financially, there are other ways to support the cause. Being informed, volunteering, spreading awareness, contacting Congress and inspiring others to give are all ways someone can impact global poverty without spending money.

– Melody Kazel
Photo: Flickr

Instagram Accounts Raising Poverty AwarenessSocial media is a powerful tool used to spread awareness about many different topics. Many different organizations design accounts on Instagram to advocate for global poverty through powerful images and words. Here are five Instagram accounts raising poverty awareness.

5 Instagram Accounts Raising Poverty Awareness

  1. Doctors Without Borders (@doctorswithoutborders) – This organization works to provide medical care for patients all over the world, and it currently operates in more than 70 countries worldwide. Doctors Without Borders also conducts medical research on topics such as economic and social conditions in El Salvador and HIV in South Africa. The organization’s Instagram account has 581,000 followers. The account’s posts range from information about their health care projects to powerful photographs that illustrate different crises.

    A powerful animation video posted on March 18, 2020 describes the struggles that Rohingya refugee families face as they are forced to move to camps in Bangladesh, including being prone to COVID-19 and other disease outbreaks. The animation was created “to put a human face on the humanitarian crisis that devastated this community.”

  2. Pencils of Promise (@pencilsofpromise) – Pencils of Promise is a group that raises funds to build schools and combat education problems for people around the world. To date, Pencils of Promise has built 524 schools and has 108,643 students. The organization uses its Instagram platform with 210,000 followers mainly to share photos of children around the world who are receiving education and their stories. The Pencils of Promise Instagram showcases the great impact of the organization’s work.

  3. Oxfam (@oxfamamerica) – Oxfam is an organization that works to reduce poverty by providing grants to build infrastructure for the poor, encouraging the rich to allot money towards helping the poor, and helping communities recoup after disasters. The Oxfam Instagram account has more than 78,000 followers. The account creators share easy-to-read graphics, numbers and statistics related to global poverty reduction. The Oxfam Instagram also shares inspirational quotes to instill hope regarding the fight against global poverty. One of the quotes posted on the page is “Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay.”

  4. Global Citizen (@glblctzn) – Global Citizen is an organization that relies on citizens all over the world to organize events and advocate to reduce global poverty. The account, which has 530,000 followers, includes many posts from musical artists who hold mini-concerts to spread global poverty awareness. During the COVID-19 outbreak, the Global Citizen account is sharing videos with the hashtag #Togetherathome to promote social distancing and global health safety.

  5. Charity: Water (@charitywater) – Charity: Water is an organization that works to provide clean and safe water to communities of people in developing countries. The Charity: Water Instagram account has 457,000 followers. The organization’s posts show the success of its efforts and the importance of providing clean water to people worldwide. A post from April 3, 2020, celebrates the completion of “544 water projects across India, Ethiopia and Mozambique.”

With 1 billion active monthly users, Instagram can be a powerful way to spread awareness about global poverty. These five Instagram accounts raising poverty awareness are making the world a better place one post at a time.

– Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr

social media interactions in Eritrea
Eritrea is a nation located in the Horn of Africa boasting a population of just under 6 million people. Isaias Afwerki and the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) have presided over the nation since 1993 having barred independently run news outlets and arrested journalists to crackdown on all opposition against the government. This crackdown had a serious effect on internet access in the country, as barely over 1 percent of the population has internet access as of 2019. While there is currently little information available on whether the Eritream government has plans to rectify this, there are ways that the citizens have made their strides to increase social media interactions in Eritrea and gain information with limited resources.

Working Around Barriers for Social Media Access

Just as only a tiny percentage of the population has internet access, approximately 1 percent of Eritreans interacted on social media as of January 2019. Access to social media is incredibly difficult, as the government regularly shuts down access to social media sites on numerous occasions. For example, it closed access to social media in the days leading up to the country’s Independence Day on May 24, 2019, forcing citizens to use proxy servers and VPNs to bypass those restrictions. The internet’s limited availability is an issue Eritrea currently struggles with, but Eritreans are using resources to work around restrictions to gain access to social media sites if need be.

News Outside of Eritrea

Government official Yemane Ghebremedkel stated on Twitter that 91 percent of households had a satellite carrier as of 2017. However, the Eritrean government has full control of the media in Eritrea and has jammed signals to limit any potential rival service. Alternative news sources have primarily come from outside Eritrea, one of which includes the Paris-based Radio Erena that former Eritrean journalists founded, which provides news about Eritrea without consequence. People in Eritrea proper have limited access, however. The government’s control of media and telecommunication services makes obtaining alternative news sources difficult, largely keeping the populous inline with the nation’s media. Alternative news sources such as Radio Erena serve Eritreans outside of the country but nevertheless provides news that the government currently does not report.

Social Media Revolution

Social media has become a powerful unit in uniting citizens to push movements for change inside Eritrea. Beginning in January 2019, the Twitter movement #EnoughIsEnough began after peace deals emerged between Eritrea and neighboring Ethiopia. People are using the platform as a way to bring forth demands to the Eritrean government to improve the country, most notably, in regard to freedom of speech. The #EnoughIsEnough movement also united voices inside and out of Eritrea, giving citizens a way to stand in solidarity against their government without the concern of physical clashes. The movement that social media powered managed to give a united voice to stand against the government in a more peaceful manner.

Increasing social media interactions in Eritrea has shown the potential to have a powerful effect when used for movements for change. While internet access as a whole is highly restrictive, making access to social media difficult, there are alternative methods for Eritreans to get their news and their government to hear their voices. Progress on Eritrea’s movements have been slow, but it will likely have a powerful effect on both those inside and outside of Eritrea.

– Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

ten facts about social activism
Social activism is a purposeful action with the mission of bringing about lasting social change. Anyone with a cause that they feel passionate about can become a social activist if they work to create effective and positive change. Social activism generally refers to working to right the wrongs of unjust practices affecting humans, such as the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar or the separation of families at the United States and Mexico border by immigration officers. However, activists can work to create change with any cause, including environmental activism and animal activism. These 10 facts about social activism will provide information on the evolution of activism, as well as careers relating to social activism.

10 Facts About Social Activism

  1. The social services industry works to address the direct needs of individuals, while social activism deals with uncovering the root cause of a negative issue impacting a group of people. A social activist may use various techniques to bring light to an issue, either through advocacy campaigns to raise public awareness on an issue, or by coordinating help to aid an affected population. Social activism deals more heavily with bringing light and change to societal issues.
  2. Social activism has changed drastically with the rise of social media. For example, the civil rights movement had mostly peaceful demonstrations and protests and is still one of the most successful social activism campaigns. Nowadays, social media has become a key player in social activism. Hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo have taken over the role of advocacy and are very successful in bringing light to social justice issues by providing accessible information across the world.
  3. A survey that the Pew Research Center carried out found that 69 percent of Americans believe that online platforms are essential for successful social activism campaigns. Americans believe that online platforms accomplish various political goals such as getting the attention of legislators and creating sustained movements for social change. There is a debate over slacktivism versus social media activism. Slacktivism is the belief that social media leads to passive activism.
  4. The same survey found that certain demographics of social media users – most notably African and Latino Americans – see these platforms as an essential tool for their own political expression and activism. Around half of all African American social media users state that these platforms are at least somewhat important for them to express their political views. Many minorities feel that social media allows them to be more active in speaking up for their own rights. Those views fall to about one-third of all white social media users.
  5. Organizations, corporations and government agencies are frequent targets for social activists aiming to influence society by altering established practices and policies. Activists may use techniques such as naming and shaming to bring about social change. Naming and shaming is when a group or organization calls out another group for unethical practices. An example of this is when the United States placed sanctions on South Africa for apartheid. The sanctions shamed South Africa and brought this issue to the attention of the international community.
  6. One can place activists into two categories depending on their relationship to an organization. Insider activists are employees of a targeted organization. They have certain benefits and challenges compared to outsider activists who are members of independent social activism movements. Insider activists are also called whistleblowers and they expose unethical practices happening within the organization they are a part of.
  7. Activists may use boycotts and protests to target businesses and get them to change their practices or behaviors. Boycotts are successful in targeting businesses as they cut them off from economical transactions and limit their profits. Businesses will often adhere to the demands of customers if the boycott is large enough to severely impact them. Therefore, boycotts are an effective way of getting businesses to change their business models to something more ethical that pleases their consumer base.
  8. Millennials are often socially active consumers as they consider the ethics of their products before purchasing. The shoe brand Toms promises to donate a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased. Paper straws have also become a popular environmental alternative to the traditional plastic straw. The clothing brand Reformation claims to be the most sustainable option in clothing second to being nude. Millennial consumption habits have created a whole market for sustainable and ethical products.
  9. There are many careers that incorporate some elements of social activism, with careers in law and public policy creating change through human rights law, lobbying and public interest law. Careers in government and international relations can bring one into agencies such as the State Department or the Environmental Protective Agency (EPA), as well as international organizations like the United Nations. Community organizers empower and develop local community leadership to enable them to meet community needs, ranging from clean water to better education. Careers in nonprofit organizations, like Save the Children or CARE, both of which provide humanitarian assistance to developing countries, are also great paths to go down.
  10. There are certain skills that make individuals qualified for a career in social activism. Individuals must be able to work with a diverse array of people, have excellent communication skills and be able to speak persuasively. Strong writing and critical analysis skills are also helpful, in order to strategize and envision an improved society.

These 10 facts about social activism show the evolution of activism with the rise of modern technology and social media. The form and pace of social activism will continue evolving to keep up with changing technologies. Technology and social media have sped up the exchange of information and knowledge, which largely contributes to the basis of many worldwide social activism campaigns.

Laura Phillips-Alvarez
Photo: Flickr