The Law, The Media… and Social Media: Bringing Balance to Campaigning

by , under Blogs | Social Networks | New Media, Politics

With the recent victory we had over Friends Life, it’s been a busy time talking about the campaign and thinking through more deeply what lessons can be learned from it. I’ve got a blog piece up over at the Huffington Post talking about the story behind the campaign, but I wanted to highlight one key thought from it:

We will never know if we would have won the case without the campaign, but the vital point is this: the enormous scale of support meant that Friends Life could not get away with a quiet loss. Having tried to weasel out of paying an ordinary family, the story of their humiliating defeat has been amplified to national news levels in a way that could never have happened without the work of Change.org.

This, I believe is a vital change in the landscape of campaigning. The twin prongs of the law and the media have now been given a third dimension: online petitions and social media. The addition of this third leg has the potential to give a new stability and democracy to activism. The law has always been where final decisions are arbitrated, and the national media where issues are investigated and probed by journalists. But with the dimension of social media and well-organised tools for online campaigning, ordinary people now have an effective way of bringing their stories of poor treatment by huge corporations into the picture.

The traditional media were superb throughout the campaign. We had huge support from journalists doing what they do best: balance, investigation, proper reporting. But it is always the law that has the real power to change things. What is brilliant about Change.org is how these two things – the law and the powerful mass media – are now given some democratic stability and balance by social media and campaigning tools like Change.

In other words, this is a good time for democracy, and a good time for campaigning. And it’s high time too – because right now it’s the law that’s under threat from government cuts and policies which will severely restrict people’s access to the law. They won it for us, and now the law needs us to support it. So please do consider signing a petition to persuade the government to change its mind.


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