Social Media Visibility: Challenges to Activism

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

As activists move from alternative media platforms to commercial social media platforms, they face increasing challenges in protecting their online security and privacy. While government surveillance of activists is well-documented in scholarly research and the media, corporate surveillance of activists remains under-researched. This article examines BP’s surveillance of activists who criticise the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme as ‘greenwashing’. In this way, it goes beyond corporations’ uses of big data and instead explores how they monitor and discuss strategies for responding to the activities of individual activists in social media. It shows that while social media afford an unprecedented level of visibility for activists, it comes with the risk of being monitored by corporations. Theoretically, it draws on conceptions of visibility in social sciences and media studies as well as literature on activism and political participation in media studies. Empirically, it draws on files from BP on specific civil society individuals obtained through Subject Access Requests under the UK Data Protection Act 1998 as well as press responses from BP.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMedia, Culture & Society
Volume40
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)41-58
Number of pages18
ISSN0163-4437
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Activism
  • Climate justice
  • Social media
  • Social movements
  • Surveillance
  • Visibility

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