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How to change the world by using the internet.

Updated on May 17, 2014

Extreme social networking.

The Egyptian uprising may well have been the first popular protest to use the internet as a useful tool for marshalling its protesting forces.

Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, text messages on mobile phones and e-mail all appear to have played a co-ordinated part in the organisation of the protests.

Obviously the plug was always going to be pulled as soon as the authorities worked out what was happening but by then the forces working for change had found a way round that too.

In fact they had probably planned for that very eventuality right from the start. So, technology 1, Dictators 0.

Real activists at work.
Real activists at work. | Source
The power of peaceful protest.
The power of peaceful protest. | Source
Celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall getting out and about cooking for the public at a fish B-B-Q on Lyme Regis beach.
Celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall getting out and about cooking for the public at a fish B-B-Q on Lyme Regis beach. | Source
The power of petitions.
The power of petitions. | Source
Avaaz uses wit as a weapon.
Avaaz uses wit as a weapon. | Source

Don't just sit there ... sign a petition.

The above was admittedly an extreme example of how the internet can be a force for change but there is no doubt that in the face of all the negative aspects of the world wide web such as easy access to pornography, chat room grooming of children by paedophiles and teen suicide-inducing sites, the web can still be a force for good.

It is up to all of us to ensure that it is but we do have to stand together in large numbers to achieve this.

The advantages of the internet to protest for justice and change.

At my advanced age the thought of standing in a wet and chilly street with a protest placard or haranguing speechifying politicians just does not appeal.

But that does not mean that I do not hold strong opinions on what is happening in our society.

When I was younger I was too poor to afford train fares to London where many important protests were usually held. My choice was between supporting myself or campaigning.

Before the internet came into being all I could do was join campaigning groups such as Friends of the Earth and work locally in my own small way.

Now however, thanks to the internet, I feel I can be much more effective about all the issues that concern me, and all from the comfort of my own home. I can be a part of a planet wide movement and join other like-minded people agitating for change.

And if this makes me merely an armchair activist, so be it. In my eyes that has got to be better than being no activist at all.

Charity or change?

Like many others I have always given the few groats I feel I can spare to charity and disaster funds.

It's never very much but it salves my conscience a little and it's probably more use than me trying to sort things out on the ground as it were. (Let's face it no-one wants just any old bat trying to boss people about after an earthquake ... even though my bossing skills are well-honed).

But now the internet lets me become much more involved than just handing over a few quid. It also provides me with a voice with which to get involved.

A simple click can mean I have signed a petition to support the oppressed and the suffering; with another click I can stand shoulder to shoulder with others fighting for justice.

Not all the campaigns I add my name to are necessarily those with lofty ideals. There are many more in support of good, honest common sense.

For example: the issue of fish.

At the moment I am heavily involved with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his Fish Fight Campaign.

For those of you who don't know, Hugh is a Brit celebrity cook, seasoned food campaigner, animal rights champion and all round good egg (appropriately).

(Here I must reveal a vested interest. I am currently stalking Hugh, in a virtual sense only I hasten to add. The real thing is just too hard. You have to hang about in the dark, get wet, learn to pick locks, be cruel to rabbits and I just can't be arsed.

Hugh is actually in love with me, he just doesn't know it yet. My husband says the same thing about Jennifer Aniston. Note here that I am the more practical one in this household, my stalkee is a chef, my husband's is high maintenance. I rest my case).

Hugh is currently waging war against a stupid directive from the European Union which insist that our fishermen discard any fish catches that exceed their limited quota in an attempt to conserve our dwindling fish stocks.

In reality this means that dead and dying fish are thrown back into the sea.

There is very little fishermen can do to select what comes up in their nets and discarding fish that could be sold is a constant frustration to them.

How these bureaucrats think that throwing dead fish back into the sea is going to conserve fish stocks is a complete mystery.

But so far the campaign has had some success with the discards directive due to be phased out. Although this sounds very favourable there is still much work to do as the phasing out period may still be too late for many species of fish.

The tragic Sakineh Ashtiani ...
The tragic Sakineh Ashtiani ... | Source

For everything else there's

Presently Avaaz has 15,809,748 members worldwide (* if you continually refresh the Avaaz home page the membership number increases exponentially, which is very heartening).

The word Avaaz is entirely appropriate as it means 'voice' in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages.

This organisation was launched in 2007 with a view to effecting change by marshalling the people of the world to petition against cruelty and injustice, and for beneficial social change via the internet.

Avaaz has had many successes and runs relentless and effective campaigns to which all of us can append our names.

They are also funded entirely by donations in order to help them remain the free, unbiased organisation they currently are.

So far, this organisation has mobilised enough public pressure to make the Muslim Iranian government step down from stoning Sakineh Ashtiani to death for alleged adultery.

Currently she is still in prison where she has been since 2006 but Avaaz watches her case constantly and the organisation, along with many others campaigning for justice for her, is hopeful she will one day be released.

Avaaz regularly calls on the internet community to 'e-mail sign' petitions on such diverse issues as support for all the 'Arab Spring' protesters, the Tibetan struggle and Climate Change.

Currently many of its campaigns are directed at mobilising the rest of the world to help the people of Syria in their tragic dilemma.

Avaaz has a vast and wide-reaching remit and the commitment of its campaigners is admirable. If they can commit, so wholeheartedly, so much of their lives to this work surely we can spare a moment to show our solidarity?

I believe it is important for us all to at least try to do the right thing by both the planet and its peoples for as the saying goes: 'All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing'.

Maybe we have all done nothing for far too long.


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