Archive for the ‘activism’ Category

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Can Twitter Help Raise Awareness for Gaza?

December 27, 2009

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the 22-day Israeli military raid on Gaza. Gaza, one of the two Palestinian territories currently under Israeli occupation.

I know Gaza is not a topic of polite cocktail party or happy hour conversation for most people. Most people probably aren’t quite aware of where Gaza is (here is a map for that), especially since it’s a tiny territory that’s only about 139 square miles on the coast of the Mediterranean.

So it is probably not widely known that one year ago, Israeli military forces killed 1,400 Palestinians, of which over 900 were civilians and over 300 were children. And considerable damage was done to Gazan roads, houses, and infrastructure — most of which has still not been repaired.

The UN Secretary General has acknowledged that Gaza is currently suffering from a dire human rights crisis. Since the attacks last year, the UN says, Gazans have been denied basic human rights and have been denied the resources to rebuild their infrastructure.

The mainstream media has hardly reported on the ongoing crisis there.  They’re focused on other stories — whatever sells the most papers or the most advertising, I guess.

So human rights activists around the world are using unconventional channels to air their concerns about the lasting human rights crisis in Gaza — they’re mounting a Twitter campaign to raise awareness. Buoyed by the success of the Iran election activists, who tweeted their observations about the controversial Iranian election and subsequent protests using the hashtag #iranelection, and capured the world’s attention — now Palestinian activists are hoping to start a movement of their own using Twitter as their primary tool of communication.

Their hashtag is #gaza, and today, December 27, from 3 pm – 7 pm GMT, they are encouraging everyone they know to tweet using the hashtag #gaza in the hopes of making Gaza the #1 trending topic on Twitter — which is no easy feat, given the millions of people using Twitter everyday.

The topic was already trending even before the campaign was scheduled to start at 3 pm GMT. It hasn’t hit #1 yet, but has been in the trending topics all day Sunday as Twitter users from all over the world share their thoughts, hopes, and fears for Gaza. The hope, of course, is to generate attention from the mainstream media and the larger public similar to the way the Iranian election protesters did.

The power of a trending topic, however, may seem silly to some but should not be underestimated.  Getting a campaign’s hashtag in the trending topics on Twitter makes the tag visible to everyone visiting Twitter.com — bringing the topic into the public consciousness and into the forefront of discussion. Twitter users who aren’t already aware of the issue will, hopefully, click on the trending topic to learn more about it — and maybe even choose to join in.

(images: Jillian York and Global Voices Online)

Will it work? We’ll know this week. My hope is that bloggers will start to pick up the story first as they notice that #Gaza has been sitting in the trending topics on Twitter all day, and then mainstream media should take a cue from political bloggers and start to report on it as well.

You can view all the #gaza tweets here.

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Progressives Launch a Twitter Directory, Republicans Launch a Social Network

August 31, 2009

Last week, progressive activists Tracy Viselli, Jim Gilliam, Gina Cooper, and Jon Pincus launched TweetProgress.us, a directory of progressives on Twitter with the goal of helping progressives better organize online.

Also last week, Republicans launched a new Republicans-only social networking site, Republicanville, with the goal of helping Republicans better connect and organize online.

Which tool will achieve its stated goals of helping its community better organize themselves online, connect with each other, and use Twitter for activism and organizing? Obviously I’m biased in which one I want to see succeed.

TweetProgress already has had 3,000 Twitter users sign up, including Al Gore, Rachel Maddow, and Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, among others. Conservatives on Twitter have long been organizing through use of the #tcot hashtag, which even progressives admit has given conservatives the upper hand when it comes to organizing via Twitter.

tweetprogress

Republicanville, on the other hand, claims to be a social network “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Founded by Republicans Stryker Lampe and Charles A. Jense, the website states that their “fundamentals are based on fiscal conservatism with the ideals of smaller government, low taxes, stronger defense and capitalism. We welcome all types of Republicans + Independents & Libertarians.” It seems similar to Facebook — albums, profiles, groups, blogs, and in addition: a Republican job board. I haven’t seen enough coverage of it yet to find out more about what their goals are, or how many people have joined since their launch. It also begs the question: does the internet really need another social networking site?

reoublicanvilleI will definitely be paying attention to see how these two new tools fare over the next few weeks and how they will affect both sides’ ability to organize online.

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New AOL Lemondrop post: Women & the Iran Protests

July 15, 2009

The following is an excerpt of my latest post with AOL’s Lemondrop.com. To read the full post, click on the link at the end of this post.

Contrary to the news media’s coverage, the protests in Iran contesting the reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad didn’t end when Michael Jackson died — though they are fading. One of the most intriguing facets of the protests is who’s at the forefront: women.

In a country not well known for women’s rights, this is quite remarkable. You might have heard about the death of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young Iranian woman shot in the streets of Tehran. Though it’s worth noting that Neda’s family said she wasn’t political, she has become the female face of the protest.

Women have been vocally supporting the candidacy of Mir Hussein Mousavi, the chief opponent to incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was declared the winner the morning after the June 12 election. While the Guardian Council — which oversees elections — did a partial recount after Mousavi filed an appeal, the original results were upheld. For the last four weeks, women have marched alongside other protesters through the streets of Iran, even as officials try to stop them, tear-gas them or beat them.

Click here to keep reading.

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New Lemondrop post on the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act

June 20, 2009

This week I published my first post with AOL’s Lemondrop, where I discussed the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act — a crucial piece of legislation dealing with women’s health issues that has been stalled in Congress for over a decade.

Check it out here and I hope you’ll consider signing the accompanying petition as well!

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A revolution in Iran, where Twitter plays a part

June 14, 2009

I don’t have anything new to say about the situation in Iran this weekend. Really, no one in the US knows anything more than anyone else does. There’s no official confirmation yet on whether the election was rigged, but anyone with half a brain can see that there is clearly foul play going on.

I think what is interesting and unique in this case is that a rigged election could have happened in a developing country 30 years ago and the people would have had to put up with it. But this time, they can’t and they won’t be silenced. The lengths to which the Iranian regime has gone to silence them — shutting down  internet connections, ordering reporters out of the country, attacking protesters — are tremendous, but the protests continue on anyways, growing in strength by the hour. And despite the fact that MSM outlets like the BBC are being kicked out or having their cameras and film taken away, and CNN is barely reporting, worldwide coverage of the situation is growing thanks to Twitter and the blogosphere.

The streets in Tehran, at least from the stream of tweets, blog posts, and cellphone videos coming out of the country, are filled with protesters who managed to organize despite the fact that many of their resources have been taken away. And it all started with one Tweet from a Moussavi supporter:

mousavi

Did their organizing via Twitter work? You decide.

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Meet Adriel Hampton: A Social Media Candidate for Congress

June 2, 2009

Ask anyone what they think the previous occupation of a Congressman was, and they’ll probably say “lawyer.” Or career politician. They might picture someone in a stuffy suit, making lots of promises they don’t keep. And it’s true that many members of Congress have backgrounds in law or business, and often have great personal wealth or super-connected families at their disposal to give them a leg up in the campaign.

But Adriel Hampton is refreshing because he’s not any of those things. Adriel is currently running for Congress in the 10th district of California — and he’s one of our very own social media guys, among other things. He’s a pioneer and thought leader in the realm of government 2.0 and open government. He even made headlines for how he announced his Congressional campaign: via Twitter.

Last week I had the chance to interview Adriel about his bid for Congress — check out what he had to say about politics, government, social media, and transparency. This is a guy who truly believes in changing American politics and OPENING government to the people. He’s running for Congress to bring real change to Congress – I’d say that’s something to get excited about.

NC: Tell us about yourself. Why are you running for Congress?
AH: I’m running for Congress because I deeply feel that our system is broken. People say it takes a half million dollars and name ID to even think of running – and that’s the problem. I’m running to show that what it takes to serve as a representative of your community in Congress is vision, a record of community building and some really hard work.

As far as social media, I’m a longtime journalist in addition to my current job as a municipal investigator. I began blogging in 2003, used blogs for environmental and development campaigns after I left newspapering in 2005, and I got really involved with the “2.0” tools in 2008 around the Barack Obama campaign (though in 2005 I did speak at the Webzine conference on blogging and journalism). I use social media as a two-way channel and I’m really excited to see mass communication moving away from broadcast and becoming more person-to-person. I’m very active with GovLoop, a network for gov employees, and was introduced to lots of collaborative tools for activism by Jon Pincus last fall during the anti-bank bailout fight. As you know, I’m very active on Twitter, which is a natural medium for me based on my communication style and career as a journalist. I founded Gov 2.0 Radio on BlogTalkRadio along with several friends from GovLoop, and, lastly, I help with official social media outreach for my employer, the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office.

NC: You’re being called by some the first-ever social media candidate for Congress. What does this mean to you? What role does social media play in your campaign and in your platform?
AH: I know that I’m not the first politician to use social media, by far. However, I think that meme is out there because I’m one of the first people to embrace social media before running for office. Until this local congressional seat opened up with the planned resignation of the incumbent, I was in school and pursuing a career as a city manager. I believe social media is key to the effective democratic governance of this country because of its relative transparency and the ability to talk to many people and build rapport and exchange ideas faster and more broadly than ever before. I also support net neutrality, which I believe is important to preserving the growth of social media. I’ve also been able to recruit a large number of volunteers from social media channels based on relationships we’ve built through public conversations.

NC: Given that many people running for Congress are not from new media backgrounds, do you feel there are any unique challenges you’ve run into as a social media candidate? Do you feel there are any different expectations or standards?
AH: There is always a challenge when you try to do things in a more transparent manner. I like to talk about issues, and that opens me up for attack. When you have ongoing conversations about difficult issues, especially in a political environment, you’re going to find people who don’t want to have a conversation but rather want to find something to disagree with. I think being so open on social media channels is going to give traditional mudslingers more to work with against me.

NC: Do you ever worry about the fact that everything you say is recorded online, and might come back to you one day?
AH: Sure I do! However, I’m not just fighting to win an election, I’m fighting to change the “gotcha” culture of American politics. If I can build a large base of people who know and trust me, as I have in my personal life, it will protect and encourage others who also want to change the nature of American politics. I believe we can do this, even if I have to take some painful hits as one of the pioneers.

NC: Has the use of social media tools helped your campaign? How?
AH: Most definitely. Being an early adopter of these tools has helped me create a niche in the Gov 2.0 community that gives me some national prominence and has generated a lot of press coverage for my campaign. It’s also helpful to be out and active in social media because I’m more ready for tough questions when I encounter them out on the trail. In addition to the aforementioned volunteers from social media, I’ve also been asked questions on Facebook and Twitter that then come up in other forums. I’d say it’s made me a much more prepared candidate.

NC: Have you tried convincing your peers in the political realm to use social media tools to engage with citizens and voters? What has been the response?
AH: Well, Nisha, there is no problem getting politicians to use social media to try to raise money or get volunteers. I’m much more interested in encouraging Web 2.0 adoption for governance, and that push has to come from the citizens for elected officials to see its value. That’s why I and some friends recently put on a “Citizen 2.0” training, working to get people more involved in pushing for these tools to make government more effective and responsive. Back to the politics for a second, I did start Twitter accounts for some of my opponents, linking to their bios and asking them to contact me if they wanted to use them. State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier and independent candidate Gino VanGundy took me up on it and are using their accounts a bit.
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Adriel Hampton is a journalist, Gov 2.0 and new media strategist, public servant, and licensed private investigator. He is running for U.S. Congress in the 2009 special election for California’s 10th District. Follow him on Twitter at @adrielhampton or @adriel4congress.

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The real problem with Betty Brown: words matter

April 12, 2009

Side note: I have this whole post brewing about the US, Israel, and the UN Human Rights Council, that I’m excited about but haven’t finished. It kind of demands more thorough research and long-form writing than is suited for blogging, so I haven’t gotten around to it. Maybe some time this week.

Today, though, I want to put in my two cents about this Betty Brown business. For those of you who haven’t already heard of Betty Brown, she is a previously unknown Republican lawmaker from the state of Texas who got her 15 minutes of fame last week when shemade some seriously inflammatory remarks about how Asian-Americans should change their names to make them “easier for Americans to deal with.” I kid you not. If you haven’t seen it, here’s the video of her madness.

Upon hearing initial reactions to her statements, Brown, dismissed them, saying Democrats are “trying to make it all about race.” Um, I think she made it about race when she made all her ignorant statements. Anyways, she has since apologized, but only in part. She has apologized for suggesting Asian Americans change their names — but she hasn’t apologized for suggesting that Asian Americans aren’t American. Specifically when she says:

“Do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here.

“Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for both you and for people who are pollworkers, if there were some means by which you could adopt a name just for your poll identification purposes that would be easier for the Americans to deal with?”

That kind of language, and ignorance, is the REAL problem here. The problem is the fact that Brown still subscribes to the antiquated, racist notion that Asian Americans are The Other and are not real “Americans.”

In 2009, I would think most people would have caught on to the fact that the meaning of American is no longer white, blue-eyed, and blond, but far more diverse than that. It seems some of our lawmakers still haven’t clued in to that, however.