Archive for the ‘social change’ Category


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 — 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.


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.

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.


The mainstream media ignored Delara Darabi. New media didn’t.

May 2, 2009

Early Friday morning in Tehran, 23-year-old Delara Darabi was executed in the Rasht prison in Iran for a crime that happened when she was 17. Human rights groups had been protesting and trying to save her from execution for months, since it is a violation of international law to execute anyone for a crime that occurred when they were a minor. Despite the protests, Iranian authorities executed her on Friday with no notice.

What is perhaps the saddest part of her story, however, is that the mainstream, traditional news media did not report the story at all. A Google News search on Delara Darabi revealed, as of late last night, a total of ZERO mainstream US news stories. The only stories about Delara as of last night were from Iranian and international sources, blogs, and human rights groups.

Today, the mainstream media started to pick up on it, with stories from the Los Angeles Times, BBC, United Press International, New York Times, and a few others. Still, at the time of writing this post there are only 206 news stories about Delara Darabi’s unjust execution. By comparison, there are currently 762 news stories about Matthew McConaughey, and 7,078 news stories about Arlen Specter.

So, how, you might ask, did word of the story first break? Who reported it first? The answer is: Darabi’s execution was first reported on Twitter. And then the first media outlet to pick up the story was none other than the epitome of new media,, a news site which reports stories from around the world using Twitter for breaking news. BreakingTweets isn’t run by seasoned news pros, either — its founder and head is Craig Kanalley, a twentysomething journalism grad student trying to revolutionize the way we get our news, through the use of new media.

Breaking Tweets was paying attention to the Delara Darabi story, and they reported it more than a full 24 hours before the mainstream media.

Delara Darabi’s story should be seen as a case study of some of the challenges with our media system as it stands today:

Ethnocentrism still reigns supreme: stories with an “American” angle – like the imprisonment of American journalist Roxana Saberi in Iran – are more important than similar stories, like Delara Darabi’s, without the American angle. With Roxana Saberi, international media attention has been fierce — and because of that, so has international pressure on Iranian authorities. Had Delara Darabi had that kind of attention, she could have had a very different fate. But she didn’t get that attention – because she’s not American.

And new media won major points. Old media types who rail against new media, such as NYT’s Maureen Dowd and Matt Bai, who spent last week complaining about Twitter, should take note: the New York Times was shamefully far, far behind Twitter and new media in picking up this story.

Where are our media’s priorities? What is driving them to choose to write 7000+ of the same stories on Arlen Specter, and almost nothing about the international law-violating execution of an innocent young Iranian woman?

Perhaps it is because human rights stories just don’t sell as much as stories about high-intensity partisan clashes or Hollywood actors. Human rights stories, particuarly world news, may sell less copies or bring in few page views. But news isn’t supposed to be about the profit motive — it’s supposed to be about educating and informing the masses about the world around them. If the press is to act as an arbiter of what is news, they should be reporting on what matters, rather than more banal stories about the White House puppy or Michelle Obama’s garden.

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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.


Meet Nicole Antoinette: A blogger making real change

March 30, 2009

handsinA few weeks ago I wrote a post on 25 ideas for how to use your blog to create change. It has since become the most popular post I have ever written (mostly thanks to getting linked in Feministing, so thanks Ann). One of the ideas I had from that post was about profiling young people who are using blogs and social media to create change.

I would be a lame hypocrite if I didn’t take my own advice, so that’s exactly what I’m doing today. I was really excited recently when I stumbled upon a post about HandsIn, a new nonprofit idea created by fellow twenty-something blogger Nicole Antoinette.  Check out the following interview with Nicole to learn more about her and her new organization, HandsIn.


Tell us about yourself and your blog.
I’m a freelance writer, perpetual nomad, cheesecake connoisseur, children’s day camp Director, and overall person of intense passion.  My blog, More is Better, is a chronicle of my shenanigans where absolutely nothing is off limits.  It’s also a way for me to explore my Life List and keep myself accountable for everything I want to accomplish. 

If you had to describe your blog in five words what would they be?
Best blog in the universe.  Or, less narcissistic: Girl lives life out loud. 

What is HandsIn? What are your goals/ vision for HandsIn?
HandsIn is an organization that harnesses the unique energy and creative passion of 20-somethings, inspiring them to connect with each other through volunteerism and empowering them to change their world through dedicated service and a shared commitment to a sustainable lifestyle.

My goal is to break the stereotype of 20-something apathy, to prove that us Gen Y-ers do care about the world, and 

are taking it upon ourselves to help change it. 

What inspired you to start HandsIn?
HandsIn was born after a particularly stressful bout of how-can-I-make-my-world-a-better-place-itis.  So much of social media and social networking is about the individual, and I wanted to create a way for it to be bigger than that, for people who care to come together and take action.

Well said! I’ve written recently about how I worry not enough Gen Y bloggers are using social media to create change and make a difference. Do you think Gen Y/20something bloggers care enough about social and political issues?
I actually think they care more than a lot of other people, and are often more informed because of how plugged in they are to the internet.  20-somethings are passionate and fiery and when they believe in something, they believe in it pretty fiercely.  I think the challenge is that sometimes, they don’t know how to get more involved in those causes, or they get too bogged down in their “quarter life crisis” to stop and do something. 

What issues are you passionate about?
I’m most passionate about issues of human rights, and childhood poverty/malnutrition.  I think a lot more attention needs to be paid to the hungry, impoverished children of the United States.

How can people get involved with HandsIn?
There are lots of ways to get involved with HandsIn, and they’re all quick and easy, perfect for the 20-something lifestyle.  The first step is to join and subscribe to our RSS feed, and after that? Get involved in the projects that move 

you, write about the efforts you’re making to change your community, network with like-minded people etc.  Getting involved means making a commitment to change, because change won’t happen overnight, it’s going to happen one person, one small act at a time. 

How did you create 

HandsIn was created in a coffee shop, on about twenty sheets of scratch paper, after a serious caffeine overload and a major session of inspirational brainstorming.  The website itself came together pretty quickly, about a month from start to finish, thanks to lots of dedicated work by myself and Aram, the guy I turn to when the coding gets too complicated for me.  Now that the site is up, I’m constantly looking for writing submissions and creative ideas from readers.  My goal is for the site to grow organically, highlighting the work of dedicated 20-somethings, and inspiring new people to take action each and every day!

Twitter handle: @nicoleisbetter and @handsin

Check out today and sign up and participate — it definitely looks like a fantastic project.

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25 Ways to use your blog and social media to create change

March 2, 2009

Last week I wrote about something that has been on my mind lately: Gen Y blogging and whether we are self-absorbed or not.

Do we blog about ourselves a lot? I think we do. We’re all guilty of it at times. And why wouldn’t you? Everyone’s interested in themselves, their lives, their careers. That’s human nature and you would be abnormal if you weren’t.

But no matter what the topic or ‘niche’ of your blog, if you have an audience, you can use your blog to create social change just by spreading the word and doing something. It doesn’t have to be all the time. And it doesn’t matter how big your audience is. Even if you have 1 reader (who may or may not be your mom), that will be one more person who is more educated about an issue and who may take action. 

The simple act of informing people about problems in society can go a long way towards creating action. Change has to start with education and information. And bloggers are in a fantastic place to provide that.

So here is a list of 25 ways I think bloggers can do just that, and create real change. Many thanks to Raven who helped brainstorm a good portion of the ideas on this list.

If you think of more to add, leave a comment. And if you do any of these things, let me know (and maybe link back here :)… I will be thrilled. 

1. Start simple: write a post on an issue you care about. Chances are, most people don’t know much about it. Inform them.

2. Join Bloggers Unite and agree to blog about issues you care about on a certain day with hundreds of other bloggers.

3. Or if you don’t see the issue you care about, create your own and get other bloggers to support it by writing posts too.

4. Videoblog an interview with someone who has been affected by an issue you care about: disease, poverty, war, genocide…

5. Share someone’s story who would never have a chance to be heard otherwise. 

6. Has someone you love been affected by cancer or other disease? Share your story and raise awareness.

7. Highlight nonprofits that are creating change, like this one, the Fresh Air Fund

8. Circulate a petition. Ask your readers to participate. Like this one, sent to me by a CJP reader whose daughter is fighting the disease Spinal Muscular Atrophy:

9. Vlog an event related to social change/human rights issues

10. Twitterfeed posts from groups like Human Rights Watch

11. Write about your experiences with volunteer or nonprofit work.

12. Write your own ideas on how global human rights issues can be alleviated. 

13. Participate in Blog Action Day

14. Invite someone who typically blogs about social change or political issues to write a guest post for your blog. 

15. Discuss how social media plays a role in the non-profit community.

16. Write about advocacy in digestable ways for would-be donors, supporters: Ex. Explaining how donating to Save Darfur will help fund portable stoves for Darfur so young girls and women do not have to leave the camps (thus putting themselves at risk to be attacked while gathering firewood) or the Visual petition at

17. Highlight events related to advocacy efforts of charities, advocacy organizations, or other philanthropic groups in your area.

18. Interview or profile someone involved in social justice/human rights efforts

19. Research how a person or group is using interesting or unusual means to educate others on social justice

20. Discuss how social change is being implemented in school curricula and how schools are creating the idea of “global citizenship”

21. Interview a veteran. 

22. Ask your readers to donate to a cause you care about. Even if it’s small — a few dollars still goes a long way.

23. Highlight other bloggers, especially ones who need attention in volatile areas.

24. Participate in an event like Twestival to raise money for charity. Better yet: organize one. 

25. Include a link in your blog to great websites that allow you to make a difference with just a click, like The Hunger Site.

I hope this is only a start. What else would you add to the list?

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