Kalpana Kalpana (Editor)

Hashtag activism

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Hashtag activism

Hashtag activism is a term coined by media outlets which refers to the use of Twitter's hashtags for internet activism.



The oldest known mention of the term is from The Guardian, where it was mentioned in context to describe Occupy Wall Street protests.

Hashtags have a history on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. The hashtag originated as "a means to coordinate Twitter conversations" between individual Twitter users. Chris Messina, a San Francisco resident, is credited with coining the term "hashtag."


Kony 2012 is a short film produced by Invisible Children, Inc. (authors of Invisible Children). It was released on March 5, 2012. The film's purpose was to promote the charity's "Stop Kony" movement to make African cult and militia leader, indicted war criminal and the International Criminal Court fugitive Joseph Kony globally known in order to have him arrested by the end of 2012, when the campaign expired. The film spread virally through the #Kony2012 hashtag.


The Black Lives Matter movement calls for an end to police brutality and the killings of African-Americans in the U.S. The #BlackLivesMatter hashtag was first started by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi as a response to the trial and later acquittal of George Zimmerman who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The hashtag saw a revival in 2014, after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and after a grand jury did not indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner.


In 2014, a media release of security camera footage that appeared to show NFL player, Ray Rice, punching his then-fiancee, Janay Rice, sparked public conversation on why victims of abuse stay in abusive relationships. In response to this question, writer and domestic abuse survivor Beverly Gooden started the #WhyIStayed campaign via Twitter in an effort to "change the tone of the conversation". The hashtag began to trend nationally five hours after its creation and was used more than 46,000 times that day. Beverly appeared on NPR's All Things Considered to discuss Hashtag Activism.


In 2014, IOYA (The International Oromo Youth Association) created the #Oromoprotests hashtag to bring awareness to Oromo student protests against the Ethiopian government's plan to expand Addis Ababa and annex areas occupied by Oromo farmers and residents. The hashtag was utilized again starting in late November/December 2015 to bring attention to renewed Oromo protests and the Ethiopian government's violent crackdown on students, journalists and musicians.


Boko Haram kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria in May 2014, refusing to return the girls. The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls was created and used in hopes of keeping the story in the news and bringing international attention to it. The hashtag was used by first lady Michelle Obama to raise awareness for the kidnapped girls. The hashtag in itself has received 2 million retweets.


#YesAllWomen is a Twitter hashtag and social media campaign in which users share examples or stories of misogyny and violence against women. #YesAllWomen was created in reaction to another hashtag #NotAllMen, to express that all women are affected by sexism and harassment, even though not all men are sexist. The hashtag quickly became used by women throughout social media to share their experiences of misogyny and sexism. The hashtag was popular in May 2014 surrounding discussions of the 2014 Isla Vista Killings.


#ShoutYourAbortion is a hashtag and social media campaign used on Twitter that encourages women who have experience with abortion to break the silence surrounding it. The hashtag was created by American writer Lindy West and friends Amelia Bonow and Kimberly Morrison in response to the US House of Representatives efforts to defund Planned Parenthood following the Planned Parenthood 2015 undercover videos controversy.


The #icebucketchallenge is an act where a bucket of ice water is dumped over the head of an individual and documented by videos or pictures, and a "challenge" is issued to another person (or persons) to do the same. The "challenged" individual then either has to respond by dumping ice water on their head, or donate money to an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also referd to as Lou Gehrig's disease) charity. However, doing both is also an option. The encouragement of the challenge is to circulate the video or photo on social media websites and applications with their community, friends, and family to show their support in raising awareness of the ALS disease. The involvement of #icebucketchallenge with the global audience of social media generated so much awareness and support that in early August 2014, the national ALS charity foundation president Barbara Newhouse, directly attributed the movement to a fundraising "surge" of $168,000 that accumulated in just a week. That figure contrasted with the $14,000 raised in the same time the year prior prompted the CEO and her 38 years in the industry to view the difference in support as "crazy." A month after the August 2014 fundraising week the number of videos that were directly associated with the #icebucketchallenge was tallied on the Facebook website from June 1 to September 1 at 17 million, according to the Facebook Newsroom. As the videos continued to climb, so did the challenges. Eventually, public figures such as James Franco, Charlie Rose, and even former president George W. Bush took an activist role in raising money for research and awareness of the ALS disease.


In March 2015, an activism campaign took hold in Australia. #Sosblakaustralia was a campaign started in a small aboriginal town in Western Australia. This campaign was to combat an initiative that would close down 150 rural aboriginal communities. Though this movement started in a rural community of 200 #Sosblakaustralia with poor internet connection, it eventually spread to thousands of followers including Australian celebrities such as Hugh Jackman, this caused the movement to expand as far as London. In 18 days this movement had over 50,000 followers and had reached over 1,000,000 people worldwide.


In the Winter of 2012-2013 in Canada a campaign was started by Canadian indigenous activists using #IdleNoMore in order to combat future legislation that would threaten indigenous land and water. The movement has continued to grow and unify native communities and the hashtag has made expansion possible. Idle No More started in Canada it has spread to native people around the world including the United States and Australia where indigenous people face similar issues. The use of the hashtag and social media has been instrumental in spreading Idle No More's message to indigenous people around the world giving those who otherwise would be voiceless a means to participate in activism.


The response of the umbrella became a symbol in Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay districts, Hong-Kong to protest about the free election systems in China. The protestors had been camped on the streets and the public parks. The umbrella was used to protect the protesters in defence of the democratic political process in 2014 when police used tear gas in attempts to get them to leave. "Umbrella Revolution" and "Umbrella Movement" have been used to identify this event through British media outlet BBC. through social network services such as Twitter and Instagram made the events in Hong Kong reach many other people not directly involved with the protest with the use of #UmbrellaRevolution and created a worldwide social awareness to how Hong Kong was responding to support of the democratic process.

Other examples

A 2012 Twitter discussion among women working in games, collated under the hashtag #1reasonwhy, indicated that sexist practices such as the oversexualization of female video game characters, workplace harassment and unequal pay for men and women were common in the games industry.

The hashtag #NotYourAsianSidekick was initiated by Suey Park in December 2013 on Twitter. Suey Park is a freelance writer who supports Asian American feminism. She started this movement for giving Asian American women stronger voices. It aims to limit the patriarchical power in Asian American spaces and to alleviate racism in that is often criticized as inherent in white feminism.

In September 2014,The Hokkolorob Movement (Let The Voice Raise Movement) started. It is a series of protests initiated by the students of Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India that began on September 3, 2014. The term "hok kolorob" ("make some noise") was first used as a hashtag on Facebook.

In 2014, protests of the for then-recently enacted anti-gay laws included targeting the corporate sponsors for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia. Among the sponsors was McDonald's, whose marketing included the hashtag #CheersToSochi, which was hijacked by the queer activist group Queer Nation.

In August 2015, the #ilooklikeanengineer campaign started. The movement was started by Isis Anchalee to promote discussion of gender issues. Anchalee created the hashtag in response to backlash regarding her face being featured in an add campaign for the company she works for. One year after the creation of #ilooklikeanengineer 250,000 people had used the hashtag.


Hashtag activism has been criticized by some as a form of slacktivism. Chris Wallace, George Will, and Brit Hume of Fox News commented that hashtag activism was a "useless exercise in self esteem and that ... I do not know how adults stand there, facing a camera, and say, 'Bring back our girls.' Are these barbarians in the wilds of Nigeria supposed to check their Twitter accounts and say, 'Uh oh, Michelle Obama is very cross with us, we better change our behavior'?" The ease of hashtag activism has led to concerns that it might lead to overuse and public fatigue.


Hashtag activism Wikipedia