The SEL activities helped the learners self identify the key qualities required for different roles to effectively campaign and engage with online stakeholders. They also considered the importance of empathy in these interactions, recognising that online services are not just run by technology but also by people, and that suitable engagement with those people is key to having your voice heard and taken seriously.
The Media analysis unit encouraged learners to consider different types of campaign message and the best platforms online for sharing them. Recognising the features of online platforms and their audiences is key to getting a message heard, be it by platform users, service providers or individuals in that online community with significant power (e.g. politicians, leaders and changemakers).
The Media production unit enabled learners to understand the community standards and guidelines that social networks and other online spaces put in place to help users know what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Learners also considered the purpose of reporting tools, how they could be improved to help combat hate speech and how they can educate their community (online and offline) about the successful use of these tools.
This Citizenship unit investigates who to target and how to persuade them in order to effect change within a company or organisation. Learners will consider viable strategies for persuading online service providers to make changes to their standards or the functionality of their platform.
These questions are provided as examples to initiate and guide discussions around the topic in this focus area.
- How would you go about persuading someone to do something that you think is “right”?
- What would you say? What would you do?
- Can you force someone to make a change?
- If you want to persuade a company, who would you talk to at the company to make it happen?
- Is it easier to persuade a company by yourself or with others?
- What qualities/skills do you need to successfully persuade someone to do something?
The SELMA project short definition of hate speech is:
“Any online content targeting someone based on protected characteristics with the intent or likely effect of inciting, spreading or promoting hatred or other forms of discrimination.”
The art of persuasion
To make this activity more “real” for the learners, it is preferable that the learners have identified an issue they wish to change, especially in an online hate context. Depending on your engagement through the SELMA activities your group of learners may have already identified this. If not, the SELMA team recommend you spend some time prior to this activity or, in an extended version of this, at the beginning of this activity identifying some key issues, especially those online, that the learners would like to change. Having a clear idea of an issue and a focus will ensure that this activity is more meaningful for the learners.
Provide each learner with a copy of the worksheet and work through the following steps using the slides provided as a guided activity with the group. Take each step one at at time allowing time between each step for the learners to add their own notes to the sheet. Technology will be helpful for this, especially if the learners are looking to change an online platforms’ policy or standards.
Explain to the group that organisations don’t make changes, people do. All organisations are controlled in a number of different ways: CEO, Board of Directors, Trustees, and so on, but in the end these are all humans and all humans can be influenced. But for large companies, the CEO or Directors can feel very far away from the individual who is trying to affect the change, not only geographically but also by their status.
Explain that the first step in trying to make a change is to identify who has the power to make that change. In other words who to you want to target. There are two levels: Primary and Secondary.
Primary target - the person who has the power to make the change you’re looking for.
Secondary target - the person who has more influence over the primary target than you do.
Remember, your targets are the people you want to influence and not your enemy!
In a school context, the primary target is the headteacher or principal. A secondary target might be a senior teacher, vice principal or assistant/deputy headteacher.
Explain that step two is identifying who all the players are in the targets ecosystem.
For a school leader:
Learners, parents/carers, prospective learners/parents/carers, Governors/Directors, funders (could be parents, councils, governments), senior teachers, local community, and so on.
Step three - decide whether each player(s) has more or less power and if they strongly agree or disagree with your issue. Plot each player onto a graph.
Step four - check that you have selected the correct primary and secondary targets and that these are at the top of your graph.
Step five - analyse the relationships between the players and the targets and, where possible, map out the links between each.
Step six - now you can plan your campaign and identify your tactics. How will you use the information about all the players to apply pressure onto the secondary (and primary) target? What tactics will you use to make sure the targets hear your request? The 57 methods of non-violent action sheet might prove useful for generating ideas.
This activity also links to Citizenship activities in Theme 7.
To help learners, it is useful to share examples of successful lobbying campaigns towards social media companies specifically (for example, people complaining about the Instagram feed design change prompted a quick reversal).
It can also be helpful to highlight that some lobby activities can pick up a lot of attention and prompt change very quickly; others can require a long-term commitment. In some situations this might require months (or even years) to build a following, collect evidence and/or engage with the target through multiple conversations in order to slowly achieve your goal. It is also worth highlighting that not all lobbying is successful and that the more successful campaigns have the most clearly defined goals. Setting achievable goals is also important - asking a social network to completely change their service might be a step too far, but asking them to change a feature on their platform is much more realistic.
The following case study provides an example of how public lobbying by social media users finally resulted in the change they wanted:
Case study: Insta-woes
With your group, take a look at the slides which document the changes Instagram made to their feed in 2016. Explore how, in 2016, Instagram made changes to their feed, which users did not like. Their unhappiness continued with a resurgence in January 2018 where many took to online platforms to voice their unhappiness with the changes. Instagram took action and in May 2018 changed the algorithms back to re-enable reverse chronological feeds.
This story highlights the impact that users can have in changing the way a platform operates.
You might also wish to highlight the changes Facebook made, in response to user feedback, in January 2018. These changes aimed to increase the number of “meaningful connections” users made, rather than marketing content.
Discuss and explore with the group how they feel about the ability of users to give feedback and change the direction of an online platform. Ask:
- Have you noticed any changes to your preferred platform? Did you like them? Did you think you would be able to persuade the platform to undo them?
- What steps would you take to get your voice heard? How could you join with other people expressing the same feelings?
Ensure that the learners understand that this can be considered a form of lobbying or activism.
Share the following task with learners:
Imagine you're the user of an online platform that has recently implemented a new feature. They informed you that before launch they tested the feature with users and received positive feedback. But, shortly after launch you discover, along with your friends, that this update has removed something you all liked and used. What will you do about it? Explain the steps you’ll take to get your voice heard.
Encourage learners to work through the steps previously covered and create a plan of engagement and persuasion.
After 10 minutes, announce to the group that there’s been a noticeable trend in complaints about this feature across all platforms… how will this influence their decisions? How could they mobilise the voices of others to meet their aims?
Identify and plan appropriate strategies for influencing online stakeholders.
Identify and plan appropriate strategies for influencing online stakeholders.