Lessons from Anonymous: Using Social Media to Help End PovertyIn 2010, the Internet activist group known as Anonymous lent its technological expertise to Arabs who were protesting injustices in the countries they lived in. This aid let to an event known as the Arab Spring, in which the governments of several Arab nations were overthrown by their people. The ways that Anonymous utilized technology to help protesters are important lessons for activists trying to enact global change on both how not to use technology to enact global change and how to properly use social media to help people who live in poverty or under a repressive regime find their voice.

How should technology not be used by the modern activist?

Even though Arab people were aided by the help from Anonymous, Anonymous employed several methods which modern protesters should not use, because they rely on destroying the computational infrastructure used by a country and would risk generating bad publicity if they were used. One such example, known as black faxing, is a method in which Anonymous faxed black pieces of paper to various government agencies to cause the fax machines used by those agencies to run out of ink.

Anonymous also committed distributed denial of service attacks, in which members of Anonymous overloaded key web servers in a given country to prevent government officials from accessing network resources on the Internet. Anonymous carried out these disruptive activities so that members of the government would not be able to communicate, which made it much easier for the protesters to overthrow the government.

These methods should not be used by modern activists because they are more likely to be viewed as an act of cyberterrorism and not as a legitimate form of protest. Such methods would cause people to focus on the methods used by the protesters rather than the societal issues that the people using these methods were protesting.

What positive lessons can the modern activist or protester learn from Anonymous?

In addition to the use of technology for disruption, Anonymous also used technology to help the Arab protesters mobilize within their country and communicate with the outside world. The main tools used by Anonymous to connect the protesters with each other and with the outside world were social media platforms. Anonymous also helped protesters use proxy servers so that they could communicate with the outside world without the risk of being detected by their government. Anonymous used social media to help ensure that the voices of the protesters were heard by the world.

Anonymous used social media to help support the Arab Spring

Anonymous helped protesters in Egypt by reposting information that people in Egypt gave to them on Twitter, and by helping people in Egypt bypass firewalls set up by the Egyptian government. Anonymous also helped protesters in the Arab world by setting up IRC servers where protesters could virtually meet to organize and to plan their protests. Anonymous teamed up with Telecomix, another “hacktivist” group, to help people in Arab countries who were protesting their government connect to the Internet even after the government blocked Internet access.

People protesting against poverty, child soldiers, human trafficking or any other issue could learn from Anonymous and use social media to help people who are affected by such issues communicate with others or to help activists fighting against such injustices safely communicate with each other.

– Michael Israel

Photo: Flickr

Social media is changing lives around the world, helping old friends reconnect and allowing people to share dancing cat videos with millions. People spend hours each day on social media platforms, using them to stay informed, share opinions, post photos, sign petitions, link articles and much more. There is potential to build incredible momentum for a movement and truly engage people by using social media platforms for advocacy efforts.

Your personal sharing, liking, retweeting and posting may seem like they aren’t creating enormous ripples of change, but research has found that content shared by individuals is shared 25 times more and receives eight times more engagement than content shared by organizations themselves. Social media has the ability to amplify a message, allowing great organizations to be introduced to new people and mobilizing communities to give to or advocate for a certain cause. So how can individuals focus social media attention on advocacy efforts and better the world through their news feeds?

Sharing is caring
The community of people you’re friends with or who follow you are those who care about you and are interested in what you have to say. If you show them that you care by sharing and posting about certain causes, they are more likely to engage with that content than if it was posted by an organization on their feed. Since people actually know who you are, things you share and post come off as more trustworthy and real. To this effect, find articles and organizations that matter to you and highlight their efforts. You are the most relatable person for people engaging with your social media, and that can powerfully increase mobilization.

While they may not always seem effective, intentionally using hashtags can really increase how many people interact with posts. Hashtags create networks of posts, linking them together into a common thread, and this is a great way to reach diverse groups on social media platforms for advocacy. Creating a specific hashtag that a person or organization always uses can help people learn about causes you’re passionate about, and adding information about an issue to a trending hashtag can help spread your message locally and globally.

Turn some heads
A visual appeal can really catch and keep people’s attention. One study found that seeing photos and infographics greatly influenced members of Congress, and others interacting with your postings and shares are equally as interested in nice visuals. By adding photos or cool graphics, your content will better capture people’s attention and enable you to use social media platforms for advocacy. Attaching images can create a 150 percent increase in retweets on Twitter and bring in an 87 percent engagement rate on Facebook, which is great news for mobilizing efforts!

Take that social media work offline
Social media is great for connecting people, but gathering your community offline is powerful, too. Use social media platforms for advocacy by creating events, gathering donations, sharing information and planning meetings, then take that advocacy into the physical world. Online calls to action such as signing petitions and contacting Congressional representatives can transform into in-person meetings with government officials either individually or at town halls, and mobilizing people for your cause can mean sharing through word of mouth or posting physical copies of an infographic around town. Building online engagement into a tangible movement can have an immense impact.

Rather than aimlessly scrolling through Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Facebook, Tumblr and other social media platforms, infuse some world-improving efforts into your feed and use those social media platforms for advocacy. With such amazing tools available, it is important to increase the intentionality of our scrolling and harness social media platforms for advocacy.

Irena Huang

Photo: Flickr

Internet Access in Syria
Bana Alabed opened her Twitter account on Sept. 24, 2016, and as of November 18, 2016, she has over 83,000 followers. Alabed is only 7-years-old and just one of the over 2 million people living amid civil war in Aleppo, Syria. With the help of her mom, an increasingly popular Twitter account and regular internet access in Syria, this young girl is using her virtual voice to make sure no one forgets about Aleppo again.

According to Internet Worlds Stats, a company that provides usage and population statistics, as of June 30, 2016, 5,502,250 or 29.6% of Syria’s population regularly access the internet. This number is up over 10% from 2009 when only 16.4% had access to the internet in Syria according to the same report.

With increased damage to infrastructure on the ground, Alabed relies on internet access in Syria to communicate with the outside world, just like other Twitter users. Access to internet services depends on availability, and availability depends on the technology’s ability to maintain integrity despite regular bombings. When it comes to matters of telecommunications, Syria, like many Arab states, looks to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) — an agency of the United Nations whose purpose is to coordinate telecommunication operations and services throughout the world.

The presence and accessibility of the internet in the developing world are on the rise due to programs like the Telecommunications Development Sector (ITU-D). The ITU-D is a U.N. specialized agency that works to bridge the digital divide by fostering international cooperation in delivering technical assistance and the improvement of telecommunication ICT equipment and networks in developing countries.

Beginning in 1996, and every year since 2005, the ITU organizes the World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium (WTIS), where business leaders, government ministries, statisticians, academics and ICT data producers and analysts converge to “debate new and emerging issues on ICT data and statistics and their role in policymaking, to provide strategic guidance to the international community on information society trends and future monitoring. It also develops standards and methodologies for producing high-quality data and statistical indicators,” according to the ITU. This year, the 14th annual symposium is hosted by the government of Botswana and will take place on Nov. 21-23 in Gaborone, Botswana.

Ashley Henyan

Photo: Flickr

fight_global_povertyAfter the ISIS attacks on Paris, #PrayForParis appeared in thousands of tweets across the globe. People changed their profile pictures to match France’s flag and posted messages of support and love. Videos of victims displaying courage and forgiveness have been shared over and over again.

Why did so much goodwill spread so quickly? The answer lies with science.

Dr. Jeremy Dean, author and founder of PsyBlog, reported a study in which scientists analyzed the content and reactions of 3,800 Twitter users. They tracked the social responses to the users’ tweets and concluded that positive tweets are more “contagious” than negative ones. When people see or read something that makes them feel good, they want to share it with others and spread the joy.

Why not use positive social media to fight global poverty? Twitter is an especially powerful tool because a quick search on global poverty will generate thousands of tweets on the latest news. Trending hashtags link information across the globe.

When it comes to global poverty, it’s much more common to see and hear horrific stories of disease, malnutrition, war and despair. Negativity is no friend to progress. Most, if not all, people who see negative content on social media will pause, allow themselves a moment of pity, and then continue scrolling.fight_global_poverty

No one wanders onto the internet in the hope of becoming depressed about the state of the world. An overdose of negativity will lead people to believe that nothing can be done to remedy the problem. Furthermore, according to Dean, negative content compelled 20 percent more people to produce negative tweets.

Instead of tweeting about the 805 million malnourished people in the world, mention that world hunger has been cut in half in the last 10 years. Discuss the Sustainable Development Goal to end extreme poverty by 2030.

Tweeting positive content about global poverty shows people that solutions exist. People want to help fight global poverty, and once they know how, both news and efforts will spread quickly.

The U.N. developed the 2015 #YouthNow campaign to raise awareness of challenges and development opportunities for youth. Many struggling young people have found employment after investigating the campaign on Twitter. Others used the hashtag to learn more about global issues. The National Foundation for Educational Research reported a rise in political involvement among young people brought on by social media usage.

As of 2015, 320 million people use Twitter. Of that number, 34 percent log onto their account more than once a day. Imagine if all those people were utilizing Twitter to promote poverty reduction bills or solicit donations to nonprofit organizations? A lot can be accomplished with only 140 characters.

Sarah Prellwitz

Sources: Elite Daily, DMR, Spring, UN
Photo: Flickr. Pixabay

Trending hashtags can sometimes be confusing and pointless. Usually, hashtags accompany a picture on Instagram or a tweet on Twitter and sometimes they are associated with different challenges. But, every once in a while, a hashtag will emerge and correlate with a worthy cause, and using it on social media will raise awareness for that cause.

The hashtag, #DizzyGoals, is raising awareness for The Global Goals one video at a time. #DizzyGoals requires a person to spin as quickly as possible around a soccer ball 13 times and then attempt a penalty shot. Many professional soccer players have accepted the challenge, including Gareth Bale of Real Madrid, whose video featured some of his friends and teammates.

Less than a month away, the Global Goals launch on September 25 in New York City with 193 world leaders in attendance, and the campaign is doing everything in its power to raise international awareness and support of the goals. The Global Goals are dedicated to ending global poverty, fighting injustice and correcting climate change through a set of 17 initiatives for the next 15 years.

Before world leaders commit themselves to the goals, however, citizens around the world must know about them. World leaders listen to citizens to understand what needs to be done; the more people that know about the goals, the more likely the world leaders are to support them.

Therefore, it is imperative that the Global Goals become famous amongst world citizens and #DizzyGoals is one entertaining way to do that.

Many of the videos that accompany the hashtag feature professional soccer players spinning rapidly around a soccer ball, and then stumbling to kick the next ball, where the inevitable dizziness usually results in an epic fall to the grass. Nonetheless, the stars of the challenge are sure to mention their support for the Global Goals and provide links to goals’ website.

The Global Goals have the power to positively change the world. Share a #DizzyGoals video to inform more people about the Global Goals, or grab a soccer ball and take the challenge!

Sarah Sheppard

Sources: Global Citizen, Global Goals, Twitter,
Photo: Express

digital space
When the terms “donate” and “global poverty” are present in the same sentence, many people tend to think of money or supplies. For some, the idea of volunteering one’s time to help the poor may even be the first thought to come to mind. In an age of growing technology, however, donating digital space can be as effective as donating time, money or supplies.

A study conducted by the Pew Internet Project in September of 2013 found that 73 percent of adults using the Internet were using some form of online social networking. Since then, the statistic has increased. The number of Internet users with accounts on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram is at an all-time high, meaning that personal digital space is viewed frequently.

Because users can post close to whatever they choose on their own pages of these social media sites, organizations and charitable foundations have begun to seek these personal pages as a stage for advocacy and awareness. Like a sign on a physical front lawn, a Facebook wall-post about an organization’s efforts to provide education to children in Africa generates awareness amongst viewers and other Facebook users.

On many of these sites, account users have the option of setting a photograph as a profile picture. This picture represents the user and becomes visible in many locations on the social media channel’s website. One way for social media users to donate digital space is to use a flyer, campaign poster or other visual as their profile pictures.

Heifer International is an organization that has caught on to this trend. On the Heifer International website, supporters can download Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus “Profile Packs” that include photos to use as profile pictures and cover photos. These photos promote Heifer International’s mission of ending global hunger and describe ways for people to get involved in the organization’s efforts. Anyone that views the particular social media user’s page can see that he or she supports Heifer International. Additionally, the photos could spark interest in the fight against global hunger.

The trend of donating digital space is becoming very popular. Local artists will change their profile pictures to promote performances, students running for school government positions will make their cover photos images of their campaign slogans and sororities and fraternities will advertise for philanthropic fundraisers by changing their profile pictures to flyers containing event details.

The power of the profile picture is not something to underestimate, which explains why donating digital space can have such a significant impact. By choosing to provide online space for charitable organizations like Heifer International to get the word out to the masses, anyone can help promote awareness of global poverty.

– Emily Walthouse

Sources: Heifer International, Pew Internet
Photo: Social Media Delivered

In light of the recent Santa Barbara massacre, Twitter users have taken the web by storm through the #YesAllWomen hashtag. The result has been incredible: voices around the world have given personal (yet all-too universal) recollections of misogyny as it exists in their professional, social and familial lives. An example of social media’s power to do good in the world, the campaign is only growing as more than a million posts (and counting) have been spreading around the web.

Elliot Rodger killed six students from the University of California-Santa Barbara last week, and wounded 13 others. Just before the massacre, Rodger wrote a 140-page “manifesto” crippled with misogynistic remarks, claiming that he would take “retribution” for the crimes against him and would punish the world for those women who refused to sleep with him. The media frenzy that followed proved unique: the massacre and its aftermath was about more than just one mentally disturbed man exacting revenge. It is about a culture of misogyny and the detriment it can cause.

Today, more than 311 million working-age women live in countries where sexual harassment is not outlawed in the workplace. In many less-developed countries, a third of women are married or in a union by only 18. Around 60 percent of women have experienced physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime, and 2.6 billion women live in countries where rape within marriage is not outlawed.

These statistics are what the campaign #YesAllWomen stands for: across the world and in varying degrees, women are still treated as lesser citizens. #YesAllWomen works to teach that we have remained all-too blind, and it is doing so in strides.

Accessible to most of the world at any time or place, the campaign has brought a unique, understandable perspective of feminism to the most-reached platform in the world: the Internet. Yet despite the campaign’s current popularity, many wonder if it will do any good to solve the problem in the long run, comparing the campaign to short-lived, social media frenzies like #BringBackOurGirls (which has died down in response to the now popular #YesAllWomen.)

These social media phenomenons, some argue, do little to prevent or change the actual circumstances of the problem. Yet it can be argued that their real success is by infiltrating and educating by providing a much-needed lesson as to why misogyny is a serious problem we must work to fix. #YesAllWomen attempts to bridge this problematic gap.

– Nick Magnati

Sources: CNN, Chicago Tribune, UN Women, Foreign Policy
Photo: The Province

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) created a “Cuban Twitter” to foment unrest in the country. According to the report, the program, named ZunZuneo after the sound of a hummingbird’s tweet, attempted to create a network similar to Twitter through which Cubans could send text messages to one another on quotidian topics such as the weather, soccer and news updates.

Upon reaching enough subscribers, ZunZuneo would become a catalyst for political change by trying to trigger flash mobs of Cubans and an eventual “Cuban Spring” where tens of thousands of citizens gather to demand more rights and for the overthrow of the Castro regime. Although the program did eventually reach 40,000 subscribers, Cubans were unaware of its affiliation with the United States.

ZunZuneo also had a surveillance dimension with Mobile Accord, a contractor for the project, storing and classifying cellular usage data according to age, gender, “receptiveness” and “political tendencies.”

The debate now hinges on whether the program was considered a “covert” action. Under the law, any covert action requires president authorization and Congressional notification, yet the White House and USAID have denied the supposedly covert nature of the program. The U.S. President Barack Obama administration’s spokesperson, Jay Carney, has emphasized the necessity of a “discreet” but not “covert” program in “non-permissive environments” to ensure the safety of individuals.

Carney also stressed the fact that the program was subject to congressional oversight and its role as a “development assistance” program to aid in the free flow of information to Cubans living in a setting where information and access to the Internet is heavily restricted.

USAID administrator Rajiv Shah again stressed the discreet but not covert effort of the program and claimed that the Government Accountability Office investigated and cleared the programs as legal.

This latest revelation has come on the heels of damaging revelations by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden on the National Security Agency’s Prism surveillance program which sparked indignation and mistrust between the U.S. and its allies.

– Jeff Meyer

Sources: The Guardian, Associated Press, USAID
Photo: Tech Crunch

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan ordered access to Twitter to be cut off for citizens in the early hours of Friday, March 21st. The shutdown came just a few hours after Erdogan publically threatened to cut off access to the social media platform, calling it a ‘scourge’ and claiming it is being used against him by his political enemies.

Erdogan is currently embroiled in a political scandal which was furthered when an audio clip was anonymously released via Twitter. The tweet contained a link that implicated widespread corruption in Erdogan’s administration. Users that attempted to access Twitter were redirected to a webpage with a statement from the telecommunications regulator in Turkey that cited several court orders for the reason the site was blocked. The court orders from the government asking Twitter to remove the tweets with the incriminating audio clips have gone unanswered by the company.

Twitter, a website widely used by celebrities, also found another use during the Arab Spring. Activists and protestors utilized the social media platform to spread up- to- the- minute information to the world. Twitter provided people who may not have had a voice through official channels or media with a way to tell their story about what was happening in their country. Twitter was used in Turkey last year to spread the word about protests against the government which ended in Erdogan requesting that Twitter establish an office in the country so the company can respond more quickly to the government’s requests. That request also went unanswered.

Twitter is only the one of the social media platforms that the Turkish government has bumped heads with. Facebook, Google and YouTube have all been criticized by Erdogan for their content that is unflattering to him. He has also threatened to extend the ban to these companies and others unless they comply with requests from the Turkish government. With Prime Minister Erdogan threatening to shut down access to these companies ‘no matter what the international community thinks’ it sets up a potentially troubling situation blocking the access for the citizens of Turkey during a time of political unrest.

This situation will continue to evolve in the coming weeks. Whether or not other social media websites will go down or if Twitter will come back online in Turkey remains to be seen. Erdogan seems eager to show power in the face of the international community saying, “The international community can say this, can say that. I don’t care at all. Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is.”

– Colleen Eckvahl

Sources: NPR, Haaretz
Photo: Amnesty

Since the Great Recession, many citizens around the globe have used social media to voice their frustrations with the social and economic conditions within their respective countries. One social media site in particular, Twitter, has played an influential role in developing and sustaining massive protests movements across the Middle East, Europe, even the United States relating to inequality.

Recently, tweeters have adopted a new hash-tag, #endpovertyfriday, to help bring issues of poverty into the global conscience.  Use the hashtag and help promote the issues surrounding poverty!  Here are some top tweets from the twittersphere:

@Monafoundation: The most leveraged way to alleviate global poverty is through universal education and gender equality #endpovertyfriday

@UNDP: #Fridayfact- The number of people living in extreme poverty (>$1.25 a day) has been cut in half since 1990! #endpovertyfriday

@UNDP: One in 8 people still go 2 bed hungry.  Watch the world’s poverty statistics here:  v @IAMNURU #EndPovertyFriday

@bfitzpatrick94: It is necessary to diminish the first world’s persistent tendency to WASTE in order to attain our development goals. …

@SocProtection: National Floors of #SocialProtection can increase labor productivity and allow a country’s economic potential to develop

@yankeeu: #EndPovertyFriday put universal access to healthcare as goal & target health workforce #globaldev 4 sustainability

@UNDPIndonesia: There are 5 factors to food insecurity: lack of electricity access, roads/health facility, poverty rate & female illiteracy #EndPovertyFriday

@USAIDAsia: Read about @USAID efforts to tackle extreme poverty this #EndPovertyFriday  @UNDP

@GrameenAmerica: Poverty in America now affects one in six residents  #talkpoverty

@Winnie_Byanyima: More top footballers to join UNDP’s 10th annual Match Against Poverty  #EndPovertyFriday

@flofash: “Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” – James A. Baldwin~ #EndPovertyFriday

@UNDP_Pakistan: “Poverty is the deprivation of opportunity” Prof. Amartya Sen #EndPovertyFriday

@chriseny: #Promoteliteracy “@UNDP: 1 in  4 young pple in dev countries r still unable 2 read.More at @guardian:

The first step to solving any great problem is raising awareness.  The world achieved the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of reducing extreme poverty by half five years ahead of schedule! Harnessing the networking capacity of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, we can take the global initiative of ending extreme poverty to new heights.  Use the #endpovertyfriday and create some noise today!

– Sunny Bhatt

Sources: National Public Radio, CNN, NewsBusters
Photo: Flickr