Search and Research: Internet Activism and Misinformation

Among the choices given for this assignment, social, digital, or internet activism definitely caught my eye.  Admittedly, I am a Facebook fiend.  Don’t get me wrong, I can put it down, but I do enjoying posting about my life and seeing what others are up to in theirs.  One of the only things I dislike about Facebook and one of the things that will make me put it down, is social activism.

Now, what is the difference between social activism and advertising?  Clearly, I use Facebook to advertise our business.  The ads I can handle.  As creepy as it is, I kind of like the algorithms Facebook uses to make the products relevant to me.  I have found some pretty cool items!  No.  Social activism is much different than advertising.  It is the attempt to communicate an agenda.  It is spreading the message for some cause.  It is fundraising.  It is political campaigning or mudslinging.  And, it is misinformation. Nothing will get you culled from the list of the friends that I follow faster than by posting misinformation.

How did we get from activism to misinformation? Activism is a practiced American characteristic, but the advent of the internet introduced an effective new tactic.  Law Street Media says, “Unsurprisingly, as technology has permeated the world, activism has shifted from grassroots to the internet.”  They go on to state that, although digital activism got its start in the 90s and early 2000s, it wasn’t until 2011 during the Arab Spring that the true potential was revealed.  LSM attached the following video:

In an interview with Jennifer Earl, professor of sociology, government and public policy at the University of Arizona, she discusses her book Digitally Enabled Social Change: Activism in the Internet Age.  Dr. Earl poses these questions:

What happens to social movement protests when for instance the cost of organizing are really cheap? What happens to social movement participation when the cost of organizing is really cheap? What happens to social movement organizing when you can organize without being co-present? And what happens to participation when you act collectively without being co-present in time and space?

Ironically, I happened upon another article that answers these questions.  In addition, Erica Chenowith, writer for the UK’s Independent, talks about 4 ways that technology degrades activism in her article “Why Social Media Isn’t the Revolutionary Tool It Appears To Be” : governments are better at manipulating media than activists, social media has degraded the act of physically particating, social media enables acts of violence against participants, and misinformation can spread as easily as reliable information.

An international advocacy group, Speaking of Research, addresses “Why We Should Respond to Internet Activists.”   Their specific interest is in regard to the testing of products on animals and how animal rights activists spread misinformation to advance their cause.  They make the valid suggestion that in responding to sensationalist posts and adding some truth that this misinformation can be stopped.  That is a tough one for me.  Sometimes I do post a link to reliable information in a comment under such posts, but mostly I unfollow (not unfriend) the person who posted it.  Doesn’t it say something about the people themselves when they spread things they haven’t cared enough to investigate?

Google searches:

#1 – Internet Activism.

#2 – Internet Activism and Misinformation

#3 – the evolution of social activism

Look at all the open tabs!

Works Cited:

  1. Chenoweth, Erica. “Why Social Media Isn’t the Revolutionary Tool It Appears to Be.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 24 Nov. 2016,
  2. Editor. “Why Should We Respond to Internet Activists?” Speaking of Research, Speaking of Research, 17 Sept. 2012,
  3. “Internet Activism.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 July 2018,
  4. “Jennifer Earl on Internet Activism and Fake News: Half Hour of Heterodoxy #18.” Heterodox Academy, 2 June 2018,
  5. Sliwinski, Michael. “The Evolution of Activism: From the Streets to Social Media.” Law Street, Law Street, 21 Nov. 2016,

Author: admin

This is the launch of my masters journey!!

5 thoughts on “Search and Research: Internet Activism and Misinformation”

  1. Interesting links and thoughts. Two of the many different ways of thinking about this illustrate a fundamental divide in approach between the personal and the bureaucratic. On the one hand, as Barbara pointed out, there are so many questions about what groups—whether purveyors of information themselves or the platforms upon which an astounding number of people rely—can and should do. On the other, there is the much more limited—but directly controllable—question of what we can do.

    I don’t know how I feel at any level, honestly, because I have sympathy for both the problems that the platforms provide and a deep attachment to free speech. I understand that free speech is fundamentally important, but I think social media has shown that, in sum, words really *can* hurt. I understand the notion of engaging with false/fake info as in the article about engaging with activists, but that does come at a real psychological cost and so more often I just skip it or unfollow, etc…but chosen from the limited array of choices each platform provides.

    Which does connect at an interesting level with James’ piece about intermediary liability. It seemed a lot simpler when the tech questions were things like, “can we sue Xerox because someone copied a book in it?” versus questions about the sustained spread of mis/dis-information on platforms that reach billions of people…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *