Power to the People
As well as the power of social networking sites described above, the Internet has had a huge influence in bringing power back to the people. Through providing a platform for people to come together and share views and opinions, the internet encourages people to take action on issues that matter to them through online petitions. The web also provides a huge community to listen to your voice so there’s no need wear your knuckles down knocking on doors!
Some of you might very well be thinking “do online petitions actually make a difference?” This is something I’ve wondered myself whilst checking through the many emails received from campaign organisations such as One and 38 degrees, so I decided to do a bit of research.
Yes, there are a lot of petitions out there, many of which may not make a great deal of difference to the world we live in. This is often because the petition is not clearly directed at a significant individual in a position of power to make a change. Despite collecting thousands of signatures the petition is often wasted, serving more as a tool for the outlet of public outrage than anything else.8
But…there are definitely those that work. The petition is often just the starting point. When enough signatures are gained, people start listening and become impassioned to get involved in all sorts of other ways from demonstrating to writing emails to MPs. It’s important to realise that even if a petition isn’t successful, the process is valuable in itself since it acquaints the public with issues that they might otherwise have very little knowledge of. How can that be a bad thing?
38 degrees is a UK based organisation which is responsible for some very effective campaigns is well summed up by their slogan, “People. Power. Change.” In October last year, 38 degrees launched a campaign to stop the government plans to sell off our forests to private firms. The online petition gained over half a million signatures and was discussed widely in the media and in Parliament.9
As well as the petition, 38 degrees conducted a poll which revealed that 84% of the British public thought that the forests should remain in public hands. £60,000 was raised for adverts placed all over the national newspapers publicising the poll result. 100,000 people also emailed our MPs concerning the issue. These efforts were duly rewarded by David Cameron completely scrapping the plans to sell of UK forests, keeping the forests firmly in Public hands.
So, people power does work! Would there have been such success without the internet? It’s a difficult question but the Web definitely allows a broader range of people to get involved…not all of us are into doing it the old fashioned way and demonstrating at Westminster. With a few clicks of the mouse, thousands of us who might otherwise not have participated, got their voices heard thought the petition. Social networking sites such as Facebook were also key in gaining attention and developing discussion about the campaign (check out our blog post on the importance of Social Media for campaigns).
The UK Government recently launched an e-petitions website, designed to bring democracy directly to the people. The system allows members of the public to have their issue debated in the House of Commons if they gain 100,000 signatures or more. The first day after launching the website, more than 1000 people accessing it every minute which just shows what a great medium this is for the average Jo to get involved, have his voice heard and change government policy.10
The Internet has revolutionised people power. By harnessing the power of the web to reach millions of people from all around the globe, people are getting their voices heard through online petitions, encouraging real change. The internet is also allowing us to establish meaningful connections with other human beings such as the young people involved in the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East.
The key to all of this is communication. The Internet provides a platform encouraging the free expression of opinions on issues people across the world feel passionate about. Be it on Facebook or an online petition, the huge audience the Internet provides makes it a valuable tool for transforming society and culture.
Here’s to the Internet getting the Nobel Peace Prize this year!
1 Internet world stats
2 Internet for peace
3 Guardian news article
5 United Nations News
6 United Nations Report
9 Guardian news article
10 Dailymail news article