Net Tuesday Organizers Stand Up for a Web that Connects us ALL -- Will YOU?

JoeSolomon's picture

This is a lightly revised note that I shared with 157 fellow Net Tuesday Organizers this past Friday evening, concerning Causes' recent announcement to 'abandon 184,674 users' on MySpace. Here's a quick way for you to share it on Twitter & Facebook.

Dear friends,

I hope this note finds you well on a lovely evening. Or morning. Or afternoon. We're a truly global bunch - so this note could find you at just about any time of day or night. Which offers somewhat of an introduction to something I want to share with you.

So much of the work we do is around connecting people across boundaries, from different countries & time-zones (from Douala to Tokyo to Vancouver) to different ethnicities, classes, and cultures within our own communities. While we don't have a stated mission, it may be fair to say we use the web to strengthen the fabric of our social ties with the intent of weaving together a better world. We use and push for tools that break down barriers, help diverse voices get heard, and bring more of us together for the beautiful array of changes we all seek.

Sadly, Something recently happened in the world of web tools for social change that seems to go against this -- of what we aspire for and work towards with a democratic web.

Three days ago Ivan Boothe (Philadelphia Co-Organizer) got a notice from the popular web application, Causes, stating that they were shutting down their MySpace presence this Friday [now past], due to what was noted as "a lack of activity." Ivan broke the news to the Twitter community by sharing the brief announcement he had received.

Then last night, Amy Sample Ward (London Organizer) built on Ivan's spark with a post on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog, asking a number of insightful questions -- http://www.ssireview.org/opinion/entry/causes_causing_a_stir_for_social_impact

Amy also highlighted the connection to Danah Boyd's observations -- which both Amy & Ivan wrote about earlier this year. According to Dr. Boyd's research at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society: "MySpace has become the ghetto of the digital landscape" and "sites like MySpace and Facebook are mirroring, even magnifying, our social, political and class divides."

Then today Marshall Kirkpatrick (former NetSquared Blogger!) picked up Amy's post and continued the line of questioning on ReadWriteWeb.

Marshall begins his piece by building on Amy's SSIR post:

"Amy Sample Ward writes today on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog   that she's concerned. "Causes leaving MySpace," she writes, "means that no users there will be able to continue promoting the causes, organizations or sectors that they care about via a process that's already been established, adopted, and networked.

"[The] Causes' About statement says, The goal of all this is what we call equal opportunity activism. We're trying to level the playing field by empowering individuals to change the world.' The removal of Causes from MySpace where there are active communities of supporters means 'equal opportunity activism' is defined by only certain communities - we know that social networking platforms have very different demographic user groups."


So [Amy] Sample Ward argues that Causes is being hypocritical by allowing equal access to tools for social change to be defined only by the more economically powerful demographic groups on Facebook."

Marshall reflects: "In abandoning MySpace, is Causes abandoning nonprofit groups organizing online with poorer users and people of color?"

Then tonight Ivan wrote a piece bringing a number to life: 184,674. That's the number of users Causes listed as having on Myspace when they quietly closed their doors this morning. Ivan writes, "That's 184,674 individual people (minus a few nonprofit staffers) who had taken the time to install an application on MySpace specifically so they could show their support for a nonprofit charity or advocacy group on the social network."

Seemingly not due to 'lack of activity', Justin Massa (Chicago Co-Organizer), wrote earlier that Causes' move was akin to "social network redlining." Justin follows up: "Causes' justification sounds an awful lot like what financial institutions and the real estate industry used to say about poor and minority neighborhoods."

And then it hit home.

Causes' move violated so much of what we work towards, what we open our laptops everyday to co-create -- in over 50 cities around the world. We work to amplify voices, empower communities, and address issues across cultural lines. With their recent announcement, the Causes team, who had stepped to the plate as "equal opportunity" proponents, seem to be working towards the stark opposite.

But we didn't take this announcement lying down. We stood up together as a distributed community to ask the tough questions, rally our networks, and call for answers & deeper conversations. And the number 184,674's spreading through Twitter like wildfire, thanks to everyone's efforts -- http://search.twitter.com/search?q=184,674

What's more, we're taking this as a moment of deep reflection and thinking-shifting about how communities may have to take the lead on technologies, how we prioritize & encourage open source and open data, and how we can reach out to and engage supporters on  social networks (all key questions/issues Amy, Ivan, Rachel, Michael, Sarah, Peter, Sean and MANY others are raising).

So while I was and am deeply disappointed in Causes, I am also overwhelmingly proud to call myself a Net Tuesday Organizer. We are building towards a vision of a connected world, we're evolving the playing field, and we know how to kick it strong when called upon.

Many, many thanks for all that you do - and very grateful to be a part of this community. Also get the feeling this conversation's just getting started, so thanks for joining in & spreading the word!

Best,

- Joe Solomon @EngageJoe
Past Vancouver Net Tuesday Co-Organizer (now being rocked by @elijah & Ben of @urbantastic!)

PS - A quick re-cap of links:

The Causes Announcement
In the Battle Between Facebook and MySpace, A Digital 'White Flight' - Gillian Reagan, on Danah Boyd's research
Causes: Causing a Stir for Social Impact
- Amy Sample Ward
Sean Parker's "Causes" to Leave MySpace: Does It Matter?
- Marshall Kirkpatrick
Causes abandons 184,674 nonprofit supporters on MySpace
- Ivan Boothe
Social Network Redlining
- Justin Massa
Twitter Buzz -
http://search.twitter.com/search?q=184,674

This note is as much to Net Tuesday organizers as to people all over the globe who are working to connect & build communities both online and in the real world. In moments like these when our values are challenged on such deep levels, Will you help spread the word and grow the conversation? Your blog posts, Contacts @ Human Rights & Technology Rights orgs, MySpace Friends, and other creative ideas can make a real difference.

With a couple clicks, here are two quick ways to share this news with your Twitter & Facebook communities.Thank you for spreading the word Rachel Weidinger, Romina Oliverio, Amy Sample Ward, Ruby Sinreich, Ivan Boothe, Marnie Webb, Ben Greenberg, Marlon Parker, Sarah Kennon, Justin Massa, Anna Richter, Sean Watson, Joe Kowalke, Sean Stannard-Stockton, Matt Bish, Celina Agaton, Todd Pitt, and many others!

Thank you also WiserEarth, NetSquared, Philanthropy.com, & eJewish Philanthropy!