Best of: Social Activism on Social Media


People turn to the hashtag to fight for what they believe in

By Sam Mathers, News Editor


  1. #FrenchsKetchup (Canada, Am I Right?)


When Canada’s largest distributor of food, Loblaw Companies Ltd., announced last year they would be discontinuing French’s ketchup due to low sales, Canadians were outraged. French’s had recently become somewhat of a Canadian hero after a small-town Ontario Heinz plant closed in 2014, leaving hundreds of people jobless. At the beginning of 2016, French’s announced it would be making its Canadian ketchup with 100% Canadian tomatoes, grown in Southwestern Ontario. Many took to social media to publicly support French’s and announce their boycott Heinz. Ontario MPP Taras Natyshak even presented a petition calling for the Ontario legislative cafeteria and dining room to serve French’s ketchup. Fast forward a few months to Loblaw’s announced discontinuation of the brand, and Canadians were absolutely not having it, taking to social media again to fight for the company. #FrenchsKetchup began trending on social media, with Canadians threatening to boycott Loblaw stores. Another Ontario MPP, Mike Colle, threatened to lead the boycott. It didn’t take long before Loblaw’s vice-president of corporate affairs and communication Kevin Groh stated: “We’ve heard our Loblaws customers. We will re-stock French’s ketchup and hope that the enthusiasm we are seeing in the media and on social media translates into sales of the product.”


  1. #NeverthelessShePersisted


In opposition to President Trump’s nomination of Jeff Sessions for attorney general, Elizabeth Warren began reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King in 1986, opposing Sessions’ consideration at the time for federal judgeship. Warren was interrupted mid-speech by Senate chair Steve Daines before being silenced by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. She was barred from speaking for the rest of the Sessions debate. While hashtags like #LetLizSpeak trended on Twitter, none went quite as viral as McConnell’s own words. He stated: “Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” People began sharing photos of strong female role models throughout history, such as Rosa Parks, Emmeline Pankhurst, Ida B. Wells, Ruby Bridges and Malala Yousafzai, with the caption: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” One person tweeted, “I hope [McConnell] realizes he just gave us the best lady power slogan of all time.”



  1. #SaveAleppo

People around the world began using the hashtag #SaveAleppo in April of 2016, along with photos and video footage of bombed buildings in an attempt to bring awareness to the dire situation in Syria.  The hashtags #StandWithAleppo and #AskAboutAleppo also trended, after Wendy Widom, American social media manager for CBS-2 in Chicago shared a story on Facebook about a Syrian-American doctor who snuck a medical device into Syria, connecting her with a man named Omar – the last neurosurgeon in Aleppo and the doctor who used the medical device. Wendy joined forces with Becky Carroll, a seasoned public affairs strategist and CEO of C-Strategies, and together they built a global team still advocating for an end to the crisis. People have been using the hashtags to urge world leaders to intervene. Many civilians in Aleppo have also been using social media to share the horror occurring in their home. In December, many civilians took to Twitter to share goodbye messages. Seven-year-old Bana and her mother tweeted about the situation in Syria for months. Her last tweet on December 13 reads: “My name is Bana, I’m 7 years old. I’m talking to the world now live from East #Aleppo. This is my last moment to either live or die. – Bana”


  1. #NoDAPL / #StandWithStandingRock


Activists have been protesting the building of the North Dakota Access Pipeline since last spring. Running through Standing Rock Indian Reservation, the pipeline would not only violate several treaty agreements, it would also pose a major threat to the drinking water in Standing Rock. In April of last year, a camp was established by a Standing Rock Sioux elder. People began travelling to Standing Rock to stand with its residents in physically blocking construction of the pipeline. An online movement also began, with people sharing video footage of an attack by dogs released by security workers, live videos of their arrests, and with people “checking in” at Standing Rock in an attempt to prevent police from identifying who was actually there. In December, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it would not be granting an easement for the pipeline and would be considering alternate routes. Despite this major triumph, Trump signed an executive order to advance the construction of the pipeline shortly after entering office.


  1. #BlackLivesMatter


The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter began in 2013 after the acquittal of neighbourhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The first national protest was held in Ferguson in 2014, following the death of Michael Brown. The movement has been ubiquitous since then, protesting violence and systemic racism against African-American people, particularly police brutality. Throughout 2016, the Black Lives Matter movement demonstrated against a seemingly never-ending string of Black deaths at the hands of police. In July, the death of Philando Castile who was shot after being pulled over sparked massive outrage; his girlfriend live-streamed a video on Facebook in the aftermath of the shooting. Her four-year-old daughter was in the car. In September, protesters held signs that read Stop Killing Us after the fatal shootings of Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont. The presence of Black Lives Matter was felt throughout the U.S. Presidential election, and the movement continues to mobilize throughout 2017 with the inauguration of Trump. The movement has not come without criticism, particularly by the #AllLivesMatter online movement that claims Black Lives Matter ignores the lives of other people who are affected by violence. Co-founder of Black Lives Matter Alicia Garza sums up the problem with #AllLivesMatter perfectly when she says: “Changing Black Lives Matter to All Lives Matter is a demonstration of how we don’t actually understand structural racism in this country.”





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