Endless possibilities: advocacy and information campaigns online
The increasing number of social media users has made blogging, microblogging, and social networking online an integral part of information and propaganda campaigns around the world. The Internet has been an effective platform for increasing the reach of advocacy campaigns initiated by the press and by civil society organizations.The recent national elections in the Philippines is a good example.
The May 2010 national elections were the first fully automated national elections in the Philippines. After years of planning, the automation of the elections was finally implemented. But the government failed to supplement the automation process with a strong and effective information drive. As in past elections, the press and members of civil society organizations had to step in to ensure the integrity of the electoral process through their own voters’ education campaign.
Because millions of Filipinos go online daily, many news organizations and election advocates decided to integrate online and social media tools into their voters’ education campaigns.
The press and civil society organizations created blogs and social networking pages solely dedicated to the national elections. Profiles of candidates were posted online, providing the electorate the opportunity to scrutinize how the future president, vice-president, and senators had dealt with public policy issues in the past. Other online news sites contained interactive guides on how the voting machines worked. Interactive maps were also used to those areas, known in the Philippines as election hotspots, where violence and fraud were likely.
The two biggest television stations based in Manila also asked viewers to upload or post reports online on any election-related incident they may encounter in their communities, which they described as a form of citizen journalism. (The broadcast companies hired professional editors and journalists to vet the reports from viewers and netizens.) Many “citizen journalists” provided the broadcast companies photos and videos of electoral fraud and election-related violence in their localities. (For more information on how the Philippine press covered the 2010 national elections, please visit CMFR’s Media and Elections microsite.)
Bloggers in the Philippines also put up their own sites like Blog Watch (http://www.blogwatch.ph/) and 100Araw (http://www.100araw.com) in time for the elections. This was a way of supplementing the work of mainstream media, people behind these initiatives said. Bloggers were also accredited by the Philippine Commission on Elections so they could cover election-related events with journalists.
These are just a few examples of how interest groups, like members of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), can utilize online media and social networking tools in their advocacy campaigns. The ways an organization can utilize online tools in the advocacy campaigns seem endless. Whether in the form of maps, graphs or animation, the important thing is that the tools an organization will use must effectively communicate the message so as to move citizens to action.