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Social Media as an Online Advocacy Tool



The Role of the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

The role of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the fight for human rights and civil liberties cannot be underestimated. NGOs play a very significant role in the protection of citizens against the government and other powerful organizations aimed at interfering with the enjoyment of the human rights of citizens. However, the NGOs have been usually engaged in traditional means of communication and awareness to pursue their advocacy campaigns. Such means of communication involved the use of newspapers, posters, magazines, television, and radio to reach their audience. With the development of the web 2.0 platform, however, social media has come to the light as an important tool in virtually every aspect of society. The old Web 1.0 platform could only support one-way communication over the Internet and could not help much.

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The Green Peace Mediterranean

The social media has therefore been tapped by a lot of organizations to promote their objectives and agenda. One such organization is the Green Peace Mediterranean which advocates for the fight against genetically modified food. Several writers have also been engaged in the evaluation of the importance of the use of these platforms in advocacy by the NGOs. Ozdemir in his paper “The Greenpeace Mediterranean anti genetically engineered food campaign in Turkey” provides an insight towards the discussed topic.

The paper, however, focuses more on the Dragonfly theory as the most appropriate theory in the pursuit of advocacy by NGOs. The theory suggests a threefold approach of sending instant messages to the social media users, catching their attention, provoking them to think in larger terms, and finally suggesting a possible plan of action. The theory, however, fails to incorporate other factors. These include the ability of most NGOs to raise money to conduct research before engaging in the social media advocacy, the presence of opposing side in advocacy plan, and the presence of jokers on the social media.

The author also relies more on non-authoritative sources and is therefore biased in his conclusion. The NGO, Green peace international, has been depicted as one of the most successful organizations in the use of online media. The social media is an online platform that provides a virtual space for online networking by creating a forum on which a great number of people can socialize. The organization, however, did not either employ social media in their advocacy or engaged other corporations and stakeholders in conducting research and survey for them.

The Social Media Platforms Today

The social media platforms today include but are not limited to Facebook and Twitter. Other social media forms are Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram among many others. The use of these platforms, however, does not change the traditional roles of the NGOs. It only assists them in the facilitation of their communication and passing of information to their audience. Today, most NGOs such as the Green Peace Mediterranean use social media to attract funds from donors, giving their manifestos to the people and educating the public about their rights. NGOs do not work in isolation, but rather collaborate with the community members to reach their audience.

There is, therefore, a necessity to get a good platform upon which they will be able to reach as many people as possible. This free persuasive essay about social media aims at giving a critique of Ozdemir’s article “The Greenpeace Mediterranean anti genetically engineered food campaign in Turkey.” The paper will seek to applaud the strengths of social media advocacy by NGOs according to Ozdemir and also show the pitfalls of this topic. In particular, I seek to question the overreliance of the Dragonfly theory by the author which is not quite established and also the references to non-authoritative sources in reaching his conclusion.

How NGOs Uses the Social Media for Advocacy

NGOs are by their very nature not for profit-making organizations. They do not have any income-generating activities by way of conducting business. These organizations rely on the well-wishers to fund their campaigns. The NGOs commit themselves towards the fight for human rights, civil liberties, and education about their rights and the need to safeguard other people’s rights (Duo & Saxton, 2013).

It is at this juncture that the NGOs have devised a way of reaching a greater number of people to guarantee the funding and arrive at a large audience. It should not go unmentioned that these organizations, unlike the governmental agencies, deal with the ordinary people on the ground and play a very significant role. With the changing times and the modes of advertising and advocacy from the old platforms such as newspapers, radio, and television, the NGOs have not been left behind concerning the use of the modern technology (Obar & Lampe, 2012). NGOs such as Green Peace Initiative have had to indulge themselves with social media advocacy particularly in environmental and food safety advocacy (Ozdemir, 2012).

These organizations have found social media such as Facebook and Twitter particularly relevant for them as they can attract a broader audience as well as enhance their chances of funding. Through the creation of hashtags on Twitter, the organizations can engage the general public in discussion and condemning human rights violations. Some of the human rights campaigns on social media also include the Nigerian and Bring Back Our Girls movement.

The organizations create pages where the public users of social media are invited to evaluate and join in the discussions. The upcoming events also appear on their platforms as a way of sensitizing people to take part in the activities of these groups. The question as to whether these platforms have actually lived to the expectations of the NGOs is a subject of debates in the following parts of this critique.

The Strengths of the Use of the Social Media in Human Rights Advocacy by NGOs

Ozdemir in his paper argues that the utilization of social media by the Green Peace Mediterranean has emerged as one of the most successful moves in pursuit of the fight for human rights by the organizations. He argues that social media improves public relations of the organizations which strive to appease a broad audience. The Green Peace Mediterranean, for example, is an NGO which is engaged in activism and fight for environmental rights and climate change. Their primary tools of work to carry out their job are through advocacy and activism. The Green Peace Mediterranean focuses on fighting multinational companies against environmental pollution (Ozdemir, 2012).

The group engages in a social media campaign that saw them collect signatures on social media within a short time and forced the government of Turkey to stop the import of genetically modified food. The social media in this aspect played a great role in the mobilization of people and in letting them know the essence of the dispute on blocking genetically modified foods. The use of social media in this aspect cannot, therefore, go unmentioned (Abdullah et al., 2014). Some of the organizations which have in the past used a similar strategy include the UNHCR in promoting advocacy against the refoulement of the Somali refugees in Kenya and also the Congo refugees in Tanzania. Other successful campaigns by UNHCR on social media include the Blue Key Campaign, which was done in partnership with the government of the United States of America.

The success of the Green Peace Mediterranean organization, in particular, attributes to the large numbers that social media offers. The collection of signatures is an instant affair on social media (Ozdemir, 2012). According to the Internet World Stats organization, Asia comprises the highest number of users of social media (44%). The second continent in the use of social media is Europe comprising of 22.7%. North America follows Europe with 14% of social media users. 10.3% for Latin America, Africa with 5.7% of the total social media user’s population, the Middle East at 3.3% and lastly Oceania with 1% enclose the statistics.

It is recorded that a total of 2.1 billion people use social media today. Facebook alone has over 1 billion users outside of America. Indeed, these platforms provide the audience for the NGOs to push on with their advocacy programs. The task is upon the NGOs to tap this potential and ensure that they safeguard a good percentage of the population. It is no doubt that the Green Peace Initiative did not use magic to collect 1 million signatures that led to the stopping of the import of genetically modified food.

One of the key powers used by the Green Peace Mediterranean was the fact that it took the social media as a major advocacy platform and did it professionally (Ozdemir, 2012). According to Ozdemir, the organization runs an international website linked to all the social media platforms and operates both locally and internationally. Before then, the organization only ran a website and a blog. As in the year 2012, the organization had 1.2 million Facebook followers and about 0.5 million Twitter followers. It has about 441 YouTube videos that have been watched 22 million times. Indeed, such a social media usage record is fascinating.

The organization uses only professionals in the managing of their social media accounts, which gives them an advantage over other organizations. The most successful event ever realized by the organization in their use of the social media is their campaign dubbed “Say No to GEO” that was aimed at pressurizing the Ministry of Health in Turkey to intervene and stop the importation of the genetically modified food which was deemed detrimental to the health of people of Turkey. The organization in its strategy targeted the Ministry of Health and the public. It employed a corporation to conduct a survey on its behalf regarding the effects of genetically modified foods (Ozdemir, 2012).

The mobilization of people was done through social media in which the organization received thousands of calls, emails, and text messages for the overwhelming support of the people in the initiative (Abdullah et al., 2014). Thus, social media was positively used for the benefit of people through a clever mobilization strategy if properly used. Therefore, social media is an excellent mobilization tool that is necessary for the advocacy campaigns of NGOs.

Ozdemir argues that the strategy used by the Green Peace Mediterranean in actualizing their online advocacy dream was the use of the Dragonfly Effect Model in which rapid transmissions go to social media. Social media can be used to send instant messages to all the targeted groups as a way of provoking their minds to think and act accordingly (Wakefield & Hornik, 2010). It is an idea that ensures that the public can easily understand the intention of the campaign and give their input at the comfort of their home, offices, or even social amenities.

Ozdemir further emphasises that if the model gets proper use, it is able to let an organisation focus on a particular issue and a particular audience, give a chance for the people to take a necessary action, allow them to think big, and, thereby, to have an opportunity to be part of the change advocated by the NGOs such as the Green Peace Mediterranean. The whole idea of the model is, therefore, to draw the attention of people to social media in support of the proposed agenda by the NGO initiative.

In my opinion, basing on the campaign by the Green Peace initiative in order to be able to effectively use the social media as an advocacy tool, the NGO must be consistent in its campaign to convince the people easily. It is proven that humans tend to internalize an issue more when it is done repetitively as it sticks in their mind and becomes a part of their system. The movement must indeed sensitize the audience about what exactly the NGO wants people to do (Lovejoy & Saxton, 2012). The intention should be clear and not too vague.

The Green Peace Mediterranean initiative, for example, was evident from the first time, as it needed to collect signatures for the purpose of challenging the importation of genetically modified corn. The organization did so repetitively and always informed its audience about their progress concerning the collection of the signatures. Indeed, the Green Peace initiative was successful as the government eventually had to place a ban on the object of disputes. The NGOs and the use of social media are therefore inseparable in the new millennium (White & Rosenthal, 2013)

Why the Social Media May Not Be Effective to the NGOs in their Advocacy

The success of the Green Peace Mediterranean does not, however, imply the success of all organizations regarding social media support. By its very nature, the Green Peace Mediterranean is a big organization and can manage to pull resources to employ qualified personnel to assist those rich people. From my analysis, apart from the social media advocacy, the NGO engaged several other stakeholders and corporations in its attempt to get the exact statistics of the effects of genetically modified food to the health of the people of Turkey.

The scenario is not true to all the NGOs. Most NGOs do not have the necessary financial muscle to assist them to pay qualified persons to enable them to get the exact data required to convince people on the online platform. My contention with Ozdemir lies in the fact that it is not possible to satisfy social media users without facts. Organizations that are unable to fund other corporations to conduct statistics for them languish. The success of social media greatly relies on other factors that might be costly because of the nature of the work done by the NGO (Guo & Saxton, 2013).

Most of the social media users have acquired the reputation of being jokers and, therefore, may not contribute positively towards the advocacy campaigns of the NGOs. A serious agenda may be posted by an NGO but may face consistent critic by jokers. The criticism in most cases is not objective and may lower the morale of the NGO in the pursuit of the advocacy agenda (Edelman, 2010).

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In the pursuit of making their point known to the audience, NGOs are tempted to use short and sweet messages, particularly on Twitter to be able to reach their audience faster. The breakdown of the message into small sentences by the NGOs ends up being a nuisance. It becomes quite ambiguous for the people to clearly tell the meaning of the statement posted. It, therefore, relays wrong information to the targeted audience that may not ogre well with their advocacy campaigns (Smith, 2015). Simple messages create a lot of misunderstanding and may not interest the audience to follow the posts by the organisation in question, leaving alone contributing towards the agenda (Edelman, 2010). To this extent, social media is not an effective platform for the NGOs human rights advocacy.

The social media users may also be limited in the interpretation of certain information posted by the social mead. For example, the use of the statement “Stop GEO” by the Green Mediterranean may be misunderstood by a lot of people. In other instances of a similar character, the NGOs have good agendas but are unable to provide solutions to social media users. One such scenario is the Bring Back Our Girls campaign in Nigeria which never yielded fruit.

Certain campaign on social media may also attract two different parties each pulling toward their side. In this scenario, the confusion caused to social media users is inevitable and the campaign lacks authenticity and integrity. One such campaign is the Palestine Campaign where both sides offered contradictory messages to the audiences thus leading to the confusion. To this extent, the social media will be derailing rather than promoting the advocacy agenda posted by the NGOs. Unfortunately or fortunately, the Green Peace initiative only had one party leading the whole country to the ban on the importation of the genetically modified corn in Turkey. Were there 2 opposing parties, the results would have been extremely different.

The Conclusion to Persuasive Essay about Social Media

In conclusion, social media plays a significant role in assisting NGOs in their human rights advocacy campaigns. However, the author of the “The Greenpeace Mediterranean anti genetically engineered food campaign in Turkey” does not rely on the established theory and authoritative sources. Ozdemir overlies on the Dragonfly theory, which is a theory that is not quite authentic in reaching his conclusion. The use of platforms such as the use of Facebook and Twitter provide a large and ready audience to the NGOs. The organisations are in fact urged to ensure that their posts are clear, consistent, and ready to provoke the minds of the users to think big.

The Dragonfly model may have some influence but NGOs should not rely on it so much. NGOs have to understand the proper use of the platforms. From my discussion, it is also evident that the social media used by NGOs may also be detrimental particularly in regard to Twitter usage due to the shortening of statements. The simplification of messages to make them sweet for the audience, in fact, causes a lot of misunderstanding leading to the failure of the advocacy campaign. The presence of two opposing parties in the advocacy campaign each pulling towards their side may also send wrong messages to social media users and lose its meaning. The use of the social media advocacy by NGOs should be applauded. Nevertheless, they should put into place the dangers associated with these platforms, too. Ozdemir is biased in his analysis as he only focuses on the positive side of the topic and does not pay attention to the negative side.

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