34 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2015
Date Written: 2013
In order to analyze digital activism, the authors of this paper investigated hundreds of campaigns from around the world and assembled protest event data more comprehensive than any previously collected. With a team of over 40 coders, reviewing hundreds of cases and two decades of digital activism, the study used the highest of social scientific standards to build the best available data set on one of the most important trends in global politics.
Key findings of the study include that despite prominent media coverage of hacking and cybercrime, both physical and technical violence are extremely rare in digital activism. It also concludes that even though Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube may be the most popular tools for digital activism around the world, but there are interesting regional variations. For example, E-petitions are most popular in North America and Northern Europe, regions with strong democratic traditions. Globally, there is no “killer app” that makes some campaigns more successful than others. Regarding the link between success rate and digital campaigns, the study found that if anything, using a diverse digital toolkit causes some campaigns to succeed and others to fail. Digital activism has a demonstrated, positive impact on drawing people to the streets to protest, especially when civil society groups use digital tools and changing government policy is the goal. If the objective is change in government or government policy, civil society groups have demonstrated success with just modest street protests and a few digital tools. Both recipes for success are true regardless of regime type.
Keywords: digital activism, cybercrime, social media campaigns, e-petitions, civil society, online engagement
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