Black Lives Matter’s incredible social media efforts highlight how technology is helping the civil rights movement to respond to racism and police brutality.
The media endeavors of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950’s and 1960’s faced immense challenges in a system monitored by government agencies, whose main objective was to suppress the narrative of the oppressed.
However, our internet frenzy generation has seen the resurgence of a new Civil Rights Movement. Today, debates on civil rights and racism can be steered unimpeded via countless social and new media outlets with wider reach.
A study, from the Center for Media and Social Impact at American University, found that the social media efforts of Black Lives Matter activists and their supporters has made great strides in driving the national debate on policing.
The researchers found that BLM activists use Twitter more often to highlight issues surrounding policing, and have wider reach, than mainstream media outlets or conservative Twitter users who push a counter-narrative.
The study, which covered tweets, from June 2014—a month and a half before NYPD officers choked Eric Garner—and extending through May 2015, one month after the Freddie Gray-related unrest in Baltimore, found that Black Lives Matter’s success in controlling the narrative on police brutality cases, protest and the movement as whole is largely due to the fact that BLM associated social media communities were invariably larger than their conservative opponents, and their most popular members were retweeted more often and reached a wider audience.
According to Brittany Packnett, an organizer with Campaign Zero and a member of President Obama’s police reform task force, social media has helped the movement significantly.
“What social media and new media have allowed us to do is to control our own narrative instead of relinquish that power to other people—other people who don’t live in our communities, who weren’t on the ground in Ferguson, who have not faced these challenged,” she said.
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