Web 2.0 Protest #MeToo

On Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms, the #MeToo appeared to be in the heat of what turned out to be a global protest. In 2017, Alyssa Milano used her power and of influence 3.49 million followers on Twitter, spoke out on Twitter and kicked off the #MeToo campaign on social media, which explains the importance of raising awareness to tackle sexual harassment and assault issues. Popular Youtube clips with million views show Bollywood actress Hungama talking about young girls coming from small towns that have to face blackmailing producers. Also, Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Ashley Graham, all famous supermodels sat down with Vogue Runway Director Nicole Phelps to talk misconceptions, evolution, and the cruel reality of their powerhouse careers. Examples abound in our technologically mediated society, where messages about feminism are frequently expressed in the form of hashtags, memes, and video spread across social media platforms. In this paper, I discuss the potential benefits and drawbacksof hashtag activism, with an emphasis on the creativity it involves and how digital media has affected the way people use the internet to protest. The reach of social media platforms makes it a potentially valuable tool for activists, the online space allows for “intertextuality, or cross-reference between social context, public events and developments, and the political scene” (Harp, Loke & Bachmann, page 208, 2018)

As Iosifidis and Wheeler (2016) have discussed, over the past two decades since the spread of the internet, a new general opinion has emerged. The authors further argued, that at first some negative voices have expressed their opinion and claimed that it would have little impact on the political world. However, now most scholars agree that the emergence of modern mass communication and spread of social media, have ardent impacted politics and participation.The authors further explain the issue until now, that there hasn’t been a consensus in relation of how and to what extent the internet has impact on democratic politics.The problem has been expressed in debates and has vastly widespread to a group of participants, ‘optimists’ and ‘pessimists’ as the authors have described them.At the majority of these debates, even though these labels for the participators are to some extent valid, they lack to provide sufficient analytic insight. “All too often in the past, the questions themselves were formulated in a totalising way: either the web, with its social media and affordances, is good for the democracy and the public sphere, or it is detrimental-with expectations set on a once-and-for-all answer.” (Iosifidis, & Wheeler, p. 5, 2016)

Hashtags in particular I argue, go beyond creating dialogue and conversation. By creating a ‘common language’ it has helped create global awareness, further the hashtag works as a cue in the public sphere working against the traditional gatekeepers that block this kind of stories from surfacing. The hashtag, is also an easy identifier helping activists but also people that heard about it to find out news and stories about that topic instantly. In addition, extensive input in hashtag activism works as a cue to repeatedly grab the attention of social media users in order to pass the massage of social justice. It is also noteworthy to mention, that there is a big potential in hashtag activism as it can reach expansive audiences, a space of communication is a positive attribute for activists. Sapiera, E., (2017) has observed three ways new media contribute to democratic politics. Firstly, it provides direct communication between all levels of authority and enables deliberation and shared communication and shaping opinions about issues. Furthermore, new media allow the creation of new kinds of subjectivity, potentially creating a more democratic model of politics, powerful enough to make an impact within the society rather than to the broader system. Lastly, it complements journalisms’ main political functions which include informing the mass, enabling them to form an opinion, express that opinion and hold authorities accountable for their actions, in an era where traditional media have been criticized for failing to fulfil its duties, in producing ethical journalism because of prioritizing profits at the expense of serving politics. (Sapiera, p.56-57, 2017)

As many have described as eccentric, author Gauntlett, D. (2013) in his book Making is Connecting, has vastly concentrated on addressing how the Web 2.0 has helped in some particular ways to contribute creativity in order to favour social links. As Thély, N. (2013) said, the book seems to echo the question of the concept of modern emancipation, as voiced in the 1980s by the French philosopher Jacques Rancière. Guantlett’s study thus contributes to the debate that has then started, about the formulation and acceptance of the society’s emancipations, an elemental concept of humanism and for modern-day democracies. Guantlett, D (2013) has argued that Web 2.0 works as a tool in the online and offline world, embracing those activities, enabling communication, creating networks. He gives an example that made real world impact, the case of environmental concerns that inspired people around the world to diminish the number of things they consume, and discover new ways to recycle. In relation with online protest, I argue it has empowered people to create networks of people and through the advances that the web has to offer, to make and connect. This tool, gives people access to other ways of protest without having to ask any kind of permission. Through the online movement that has been created #MeToo, against sexual assault and harassment, the hashtag that has shared its massage and will stay online. Users using different platforms were using this form of protest hoping to raise awareness and optimistically create social change. People protested by sharing their stories, just by sharing their stories and adding the particular nametag, making their input to the movement.

Guantlett, D (2013) has described making is connecting in three principle ways:

  1. “Making is connecting because you have to connect things together (materials, ideas, or both) to make something new;
  2. Making is connecting because acts of creativity usually involve, at some point, a social dimension and connect us with other people;
  3. And making is connecting because through making things and sharing them in the world, we increase our engagement and connection with our social and physical environments.”(Guantlett, p.2, 2013)

I believe what Guantlett said in relation to protest is a form of making and connecting. Protest relates with making is connecting because people connected together their ideas to create something new, in the case of the #MeToo a viral hashtag movement. Secondly, because of this act of creativity that involved thousands of people from different parts of the world finding a mutual connection; saw the issue that has proven to be a global problem, that was revealed through the usage of the several variations hashtag in different countries. Lastly, through the collaborative creation of the movement and the sharing of stories, people found physical connection which is shown by the real protests that have been organized also through digital media. I reason, that the break of silence on the topic in the traditional media was as a result of covering the events that took place after the movement, and after the accusations of celebrities surfaced numerous articles were written. It seems like the media acted in their best interest and produced stories that knew would generate monetary profits for their publications.

Web 2.0 has helped people understand the power they hold as both consumers but also producers. The fact that the internet gives the opportunity to everyone who has access to the internet to be producers has empowered many to protest, changing the way people connect and interact on the internet. This marks a powerful shift from the ‘sit back and be told’ culture to the ‘making and doing culture’ as Guantlett has described. Guantlett defines everyday creativity as “a process which bring together at least one active human mind, and the material or digital world, in the activity of making something which is novel in that context, and is a process which evokes a feeling of joy.” (Guantlett, p. 76, 2013). In the definition the author makes two important statements. Firstly, that the act of creativity can include more than one person, and the material or digital world, and that the process itself evokes a feeling of happiness. I argue that the definition is quite narrow since it has been shown that human beings not only create to feel joy but in many cases creativity is also as a result of expression good or bad. It has been for many years now speculated that there’s some correlation between sadness and creativity, globally renown Van Gogh has created amazing acts of creativity and is also very famous about his melancholy. However, professor Ken Robinson, also talked about creativity and has defined it as “the process of having original ideas that have value.” Even though Robinsons definition may be broader in context, it fails to make reference to emotion and instead focused in the value of the act of creativity.

Gauntlett, D., (2013) has identified this shift of the culture, a shift towards a more of a ‘making and doing culture’. He argues that “…offline and online activities –with bigger issues: real social problems rather than virtual online socializing. This connects with the argument –or the hope –that we are seeing a shift away from a ’sit back and be told’ culture towards a more of a ‘making and doing culture’. (Gauntlett, p.14, 2013) Furthermore, he has discussed that there is an obvious shift towards a more interactive tendency online, while impacts the way people spend their time and therefore how they connect with each other. In the book he defines creativity as “a process by which a symbolic domain in the culture is changed.” (Gauntlett, p.20, 2013)

From a different perspective, Castells, M. (2013) in Communication Power, has argued that freedom of expression on the internet in the world is often scrutinized since its surveilled by some governments, ideological religious institutions and others powerful authorities. He also mentions that privacydoes no longer exist, after the birth of “cookies” and personal data-retrieving strategies. However, Castells understands the benefits the internet has to offer. He argues that at the same time traditional institutions are still using power to regulate the web, “social actors and individual citizens around the world are using the new capacity of communication networking to advance their projects, to defend their interests, and to assert their values… furthermore, they have become increasingly aware of the crucial role of the new multimedia system and its regulatory institutions in the culture and politics of society… so, the new field of communication in our time is emerging through a process of multidimensional change shaped by conflicts rooted in the contradictory structure of interests and values that constitute society.” (Castells, p.57, 2013). Castells, further acknowledges that these kind of social movements are often formed by people communicating common massages of range and hope. He argues that the structure of communication that the Web introduced, gives the opportunity to the given society to form social movements, politics talk, revolutionary or not, to be shaped in the public space. This public space, is the space where societal, meaningful as he has described interactions where their values and ideas, can be formed, supported, or even disapproved. In other words, a public space that fits action and reaction. The control of socialized communication throughout history, Castells describes as what was the power of ideological and political authorities, since it was under their control. This new networked society thus has empowered people more than ever. In the era that is described as an era of the rise of mass self-communication, social movements and digital activism have the opportunity to enter the public space from many sources. Furthermore, I identified that there is the advantage of both digital media to work as a tool for activists to express themselves, this increases their chances of making a change.

However, the author makes an important identification that the particular multimedia networks themselves as a new structure of communication do not have the ability to create networks, it is the decisions and instructions of their programmers that holds the power in this space. In his framework Castells argues that the networking power strongly consists if the people in power allow the medium of message enter through gatekeeping procedures. This contradicts theories of many scholars, possibly over-optimistic such as Guantlett that have argued that the Web 2.0 is a space of free communication, a significant shift in the democratization of politics through social media. Even though this is true to one extent, I argue that more research must be conducted in order to determine the pitfalls of self-mass communication through social media platforms and examine the power that the companies behind them hold. It has been proven recently that we might live in an era where we want to believe that this new kind of social-media oriented society gives us the opportunity to freely communicate but with the surface of scandals such the recent Facebook privacy breach has brought some debates regarding the democracy involved on the internet. Further, Castells argues that “those in charge of the operations of each communication network are the gatekeepers, and so they exercise networking power by blocking or allowing access to media outlets and/or to messages that are conveyed to the network.” (Castells, p.418, 2013)

The late Kurt Lewin, was a scholar that has provided the field of social science with an applied definition of the phenomenon gatekeeper. Lewin argued the process of a news item entering the gatekeepers, that functioned as gates and affected where or not it would pass through certain communication channels. In order to explain the process further, Lewin said that the process is ruled either by industry rules or by gatekeepers, and in the concluding phase by an individual or group of individuals that have the authority of making the decision if the news items passes the ‘gates’. In other words, Castells calls it gatekeeping the nodes and gatekeeping the messages.  However, it is important to identify how the rise of mass self-communication has affected the power of the gatekeepers’ capability of the programmers of mass communication. In the case of #MeToo has been proven that the creation of the idea has reached the world at large and to further cause social change and brought justice to same cases of sexual harassment and assault. Expectantly, after bringing light to the problem may benefit and act as a cue for the public interest, bring awareness and changes in the space of workforce where statistics prove a power epidemic, where “Nearly 50% of men think women are well-represented in leadership in companies where only one in ten senior leaders is a woman.” Despite Castells further claims that “gatekeeping still yields considerable networking power because most socialized communication is still processed through the mass media, and the most popular information web sites are those of the mainstream media because of the importance of branding in the source of the message.” (Castells, p.418, 2013) It is also evident that the government still holds control over the internet, there are examples of countries that have an immerse impact on what their people can access. Internet censorship in China is among the strictest in the world that includes a variety of laws and regulations imposed by the Chinese government. “The Great Firewall of China” as it has been widely described is governed by the authorities that not only block website content but also monitor internet usage of individuals. Even though the apparatus of China’s internet control is possibly the severest than any other country in the world, it could be argued that other more democratic states such as the US face other problems. Corporate businesses have showcased attempts to enclose telecommunication networks in their privately owned digital platforms, proving that the persistence of the networking power stills is held in the power of the gatekeepers.

The movement fights against the high numbers of sexual assault and harassment. Statistics show that there have been numerous attacks especially in the workplace. According to UN Women, it is estimated that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives. In addition to, around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. Furthermore, it seems to be a vast problem in the workplace. According to the TUC, Sexual harassment in the workplace in 2016 research, 52% of women are sexually harassed at work in the UK. To further back up these claims, according to Cosmopolitans Survey: 1 in 3 women has been sexually harassed at work.

The hashtag was virally spread in October 2017, after American Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Within 24 hours she had received more than 500000 responses using the hashtag. Her post not only generated thousands of replies and retweets but also inspired thousands more original posts on social media, with women and men from around the world sharing personal stories. Among the celebrities who responded were Cara Delevingne, Lady Gaga and Evan Rachel Wood. I believe that the involvement of renowned people boosted the ongoing movement. However, the fact that in 2006 when the movement was firstly created, hashtag activism didn’t yet become a popular form of digital activism, also raises some questions.

Bonilla and Rosa (2015) explains the symbol, a familiar tool across platforms mostly Twitter often used as a way of creating a conversation within the platform. It is also “an indexing system in both the clerical sense and the semiotic sense. In the clerical sense, it allows the ordering and quick retrieval of information about a specific topic.” (Bonilla & Rosa, page, 2015). According to data from Ezy Insights (2017) the hashtag has been used more than 200,000 times by October 15 and it was tweeted more than 500,000 times by October 16. On Facebook, the hashtag had been used by more than 4,7 million posts during the first 24 hours. The platform reported that 45% of users in the US had a friend who had posted using the hashtag.

According to a study conducted by D’Efilippo, V., (2018) The anatomy of a hashtag — a visual analysis of the MeToo Movement.A data visualization that represents Trending seeds, of the most popular tweets from October 2017 through March 2018. While media outlets created substantial awareness on Twitter regarding the issue, the hashtag has allowed celebrities and regular people to share their opinions and experiences, with the help of digital media as a tool and space to create discussions without the traditional gatekeepers. The data visualisation also represents Seeds where, each seed shows individual tweets and conversations around key events. Results from the MeToo Momentum, (2018) include important stepping points that formed the movement.

On October 5th2017the New York Times, published an article with very detailed allegations of sexual harassment against famous Hollywood persona Harvey Weinstein, uncovering the dark corruption of Hollywood’s gender culture. Furthermore, on October 25th2017the European Parliament hosts a discussion on sexual violence and harassment, following claims that Brussels government ignored serious allegations of institutional assault, rape and harassment, an abuse of power, something that turned out to be a global phenomenon.  Tweets show involvement of other powerful men, such as American president Donald Trump, a few British MPs and other high profile individuals. On January 8th2018, Oprah Winfrey’s gave a speech at Golden Globes. Oprah delivered a powerful speech as she received The Cecil B. DeMille Award, she was the first black woman to be honoured with it. Her speech has helped other hashtags and initiatives grow. This reveals a profound shift, a statement that after raise of awareness comes action, and thence social change.

On the 21stof January 2018 when themovement went from the web to the streets, hundreds of thousands of women around the world take to the streets for the 2018 Women’s March. It was massive in scale, believed to have been achieved through high social media engagement. The movement further spread around the world on International Women’s Day, on March 8th2018.

MeToo may have started in America their voice spread quickly around the globe, helping survivors.The hashtag has managed to spread across the world, and was trending in 85 countries. Other than celebrities, many women also spoke out: nurses, teachers, engineers, lawyers, waitresses and students. The people who have broken their silence span all races, all professions and virtually every corner of the globe. It offers hope that many of the unheard voices can help bring results in institutional and cultural change. In the case of #MeToo people demanded a change in the issue, as a result their anger has turned into a powerful voice and bloomed the creation of other similar movements such as TimesUp, a movement fighting for the same things but specifies more about sexual assault and harassment in the workplace.

In addition, the movement is also very approachable, accessible but also widespread. This means that even though it has positive outcomes many have criticized it for promoting wrong feminism values and creating hatred towards feminists.In an article by Zeilinger, J., (2018) The #Metoo Movement is affecting men too. Zeilinger explained a poll that MTV created showed, thattweets have helped raise awareness by victims sharing their stories. 40% of young men said the #MeToo movement has changed the way they interact in potential romantic relationships. Therefore, as a result, many came forward and apologized for their behavior on social media. Also, many other media outlets such as The Record and NorthJerseyhave asked for peoples stories. Anzidei, M., (2017). the author of the article #MeToo: The stories of sexual assault you haven’t heardsaid, “Now, people living beyond the limelight — those who otherwise might have remained silent — have felt empowered to come forward.”This proves that for decades, many women lived with those bad experiences, not reporting it or even mentioning it to others, they claim that the movement has changed everything.

 Social awareness has been raised, about the taboo topic that was not discussed much in mainstream media, has managed to make some kind of social. Optimistically, people might now change the way they act but also how they react to this kind of situations. The hashtag has motivated many women around the world to speak up for their rights, not only online but also on the streets. Women protest in Hollywood after allegations of high profile individuals surfaced. As a result of the allegations followed, Spacey lost roles, and others have admitted their wrong doings.Simultaneously, The Google global protest began at 11.10am in Tokyo,they followed allegations of sexual misconduct made against senior executives, which organizers said are the most high-profile examples of thousands of similar cases across the company.Following, McDonalds employees who marched for their rights all around the US, shouting, “Hold your burgers, hold your fries. Keep your hands off my thighs.” In other cities, they had blue duct tape that said “MeToo” covering their mouths, as a form of epxression. The demands included improvement of training programs, a more effective way to report complaints and a committee dedicated to addressing sexual harassment issues.Other protesters were arrested during a demonstration in opposition to President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, after he was accused by Christine Blasey Ford after the alleged sexually assaulted her roughly 30 years ago. This particular story was highly discussed in traditional media since, it was a hot debate topic. Many criticized Mrs. Ford for waiting so many years to come forward and make the accusations. However, this might discourage others who may have also never opened up and shared their story.

Further, high profile individuals, someof the most well know people on the planet such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and more have been accused. This has affected Companies, have also been affected some suffered from the acts of individual people. Netflix cancelled production of hit series House of CardsAfter Kevin Spacey was accused. Furthermore, victimsmight be today able to relate better with other victims. #MeToo has made this silenced issue very public. Optimistically, they are able to come forward and make sure the alleged attack is properly investigated. Raise of social awareness, is apparent in the most popular search terms on Google search globally. It had much impact concerning bullying, harassment and feminism. I argue that the movement has made quite an impact on society, especially the younger generation and may possibly lead to institutional change, where women are respected more and where workplace isn’t a hot environment where these unfortunate events take place. Movements like this may lead into changes in legislation, as it has been shown, some countries such as Sweden, started a political debated over abuse, sexual harassment and equality after the movement began. Lastly but not least, it affected values and ethics, in other words, sexual harassment is enabled by a culture of silence, for many reasons. Now it is something that is loudly spoken about.

In conclusion, the internet age has better equipped people to deal with these issues. Social media has democratized feminism, helping women to share their experiences. It has brought the idea of sexual harassment and assault into the public consciousness, breaking the taboo conversations. The #MeToo movement with many local and international alternatives, that was founded in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2017 the hashtag #MeToo has made it renowned worldwide. I argue, is it possible that it wasn’t spread due to the limitations people digitally had and was widely affected to become mainstream due to celebrities’ stories. Whatever the case it is arguable that the hashtag has been an important tool for social and political activism online. People in this case have fought to raise awareness, as a new form of social change through social media, hoping to draw attention to the issue of sexual harassment and assault by using a specific metadata, #MeToo. Even though its questionable from many scholars and academic, this new mechanism for social change in our new media environment, I argue that #MeToo was effective and managed to change some ideologies especially in the workforce but also bring justice to some victims and optimistically enable others to come out and speak up for the experiences on such a taboo issue. We must keep in mind that the benefits the Web 2.0 has to offer are huge. It can help people discover, inform and create both as consumers and producers. This shift is a stepping stone for activism since, as Castells has mentioned “anything that reaches the Internet may reach the world at large.” (Castells, p.418, 2013) However, there are limitations that need to be researched in order to determine the correlation between traditional media and online activism in our technology mediated society.


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  3. Bonilla, Y., & Rosa, J. (2015). # Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States. American Ethnologist42(1), 4-17.
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#MeToo: The untold stories

“He stood in front of the door and blocked me and tried to kiss me on the lips. I stopped him and managed to get out of the room… I was so hesitant about speaking out. I didn’t want to hurt his family. I felt guilty as if I did something wrong. I was also terrified that this sort of thing had happened to so many women I know but no one had said anything because of fear.”

These are the words of Cara Delevingne in a post on her Instagram page giving a detailed description of the sexual harassment she experienced when she first started acting as an actor by film producer Harvey Weinstein.

Along with Cara Delevingne, many other stories of his victims and of many others have surfaced. And while all over the media are the faces of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and a numerous other sexual harassment and assault allegations against a number of powerful men, Hollywood is not the only place on earth that women are being harassed. There are around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. [unwomen.org]

Women around the world wouldn’t give up until the ones responsible get punished for it. Over the last month, many women chose to tell about their stories through social media. Actress Alyssa Milano urged women to reply to her tweet with #MeToo. two simple words, yet so powerful, is the hashtag that has gone viral, with thousands of women responding one after the other, celebrities and artists such as Lady Gaga, but not only women spoke up even men have chosen to share their stories.

Me too. I don’t know if it means anything coming from a gay man but it’s happened. Multiple times.” Were the words of Javier Muñoz, an American actor.

According to the TUC Sexual harassment in the workplace in 2016 research, 52% of women are sexually harassed at work in the UK. These statistics prove that unfortunately, at a place where someone should feel safe and comfortable, at a place where someone spends the majority of their day; is also a place where abuse happens too often.