Online Environmental Activism in South Africa: A Case Study of the #IAM4RHINOS Twitter Campaign

Joanne Carew

Abstract


The microblogging platform Twitter allows users to read and deliver short pieces of information called tweets. With the growth of social networks and various new media technologies, both locally and internationally, websites like Twitter have become platforms for activist groups to disseminate their messages, gather support, and start policy-related petitions championing a specific cause. The Internet and digital technologies open the door for everyday citizens to rally support for an initiative, and in so doing create large networked communities of normal people with shared beliefs. This article presents observations about the use of Twitter during the 2013 #Iam4rhinos conservation campaign. The article draws on data generated from Twitter users who participated in the campaign, which will be studied through a qualitative content analysis. Using the 2013 #Iam4rhinos Twitter campaign as a case study, this article traces some of the trends that emerged over the course of the 10 day initiative. The article also examines the online environmental activism landscape in South Africa, determining the power of retweets in message diffusion and highlighting the importance of regular users who, through their ardent support of the initiative, emerged as prominent influencers.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5789/8-2-169

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