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Social media fuelling new wave of activism, report claims

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For the last few weeks, Sky News has been exploring the big issues around social media to coincide with the Royal Society for Public Health’s Scroll Free September campaign.

But as thousands prepare to log back on to the big five apps – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube – there are positive sides to the platforms.

New research shows that young people are not only using the apps to campaign on the issues that matter to them, they also believe that social media is vital for bringing about change.

From #metoo to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, there are no shortage of examples of movements online that have made real positive change in the real world.

:: Call for study into how social media addiction affects older generations



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Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield talks to Sky News about how children can have greater resilience to social media.

Think tank Demos polled 2,000 people aged 16 to 25 – including young campaigners – for its latest report and discovered just how important social media is seen.

They found:

:: Nearly two-thirds of young people (64%) see social media platforms as an essential part of achieving social change.

:: More than half of 35 to 50-year-olds agree (55%).

:: Overall, approximately half (55%) of young people in the UK believe social media makes positive offline changes more likely to happen.

The Ice Bucket challenge raised millions of dollars for ALS in 30 days
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The Ice Bucket challenge raised millions of dollars for ALS in 30 days

The report, called Plugged-In, was commissioned by Facebook, which celebrated the findings as a sign of the positive power of its platform.

However, the researchers also raised concerns about issues that an over-reliance on social media can lead to.

For example, the risk of a so-called “activism gap'” increases – meaning that some voices that are not online can be drowned out or even disappear completely.

Facebook says it is working on ways to improve activism online, including helping to educate people who lack the digital literacy needed to succeed online.

In a blog post, Antigone Davis, the social network’s global head of safety, wrote: “We want to play our part in helping those young people find a voice on Facebook and that’s why earlier this year we announced the Facebook Community Leadership programme in London, a global initiative that invests in helping people build communities in the real world.

“As part of this, we’ve committed tens of millions of dollars to the program, including up to $10m (£7.6m) in grants that will go directly to people creating and leading these Facebook groups.”

The challenge is one example of the positive side of social media
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The challenge is one example of the positive side of social media

The company also recently announced that more than $300m (£227m) had been raised in the first year of its Birthday Fundraisers feature.

If you add that to the incredible (and probably impossible to quantify) amount raised by individuals fundraising across all social media, it’s clear to see just how powerful the platforms are.

There are plenty of reasons to be cynical of so called “keyboard campaigning”, but clearly there is a growing appreciation of what social media can help people to achieve.

:: On Sky News throughout September we’ll be following a group of six people of all ages to see how they get on in their quest to go full ‘Cold Turkey’. Through video diaries from our volunteers and expert analysis and industry interviews, we’ll be exploring the positives and negatives of social media.

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