Digital activism comes of age: technology is creating new space for marginalized voices

Braving below zero temperatures this winter in Ottawa Canada, activists descended on the headquarters of Shopify, an ecommerce platform, to deliver a 200,000 strong petition. The petition, organised by SumOfUs, a consumer watch-dog, together with Sleeping Giants, an anonymous group of activists, calls on shopify to stop supporting sales of merchandise produced by the extreme right-wing U.S. news site Breitbart.

This was just the latest move in a successful campaign launched last year that aims to pressure companies to pull their advertisements from the Breitbart site. Using social media, Sleeping Giants asked people to take screenshots of the ads and then email or tweet the company involved to make them aware they are tacitly endorsing and financing right wing propaganda. So far more than 1,400 companies have heeded the call, including Nordstrom, Warby Parker and Mercedes-Benz. Now the campaign has Shopify in its sights.

These actions are a timely reminder that although new technologies can reinforce existing inequalities (because those with more power often have the best access) they can also help us fight back. Across the globe the web and mobile technology have offered creative ways to organise, share information and mobilise people for collective action.

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