Hashtag activism has an increasingly important and prominent role in our society. Social media, in particular Twitter, gives everyone a voice. It provides a platform to groups of people who have historically been ignored or silenced. It is now an integral part of boosting a movement and increasing awareness of a cause or problem.
Prominent hashtags of the last few years include #blacklivesmatter, #metoo, #ferguson, #icantbreathe, #sayhisname, #yesallwomen, and many more. In talking about the results post protests in Ferguson, Philip Howard, the Principle Investigator for Digital Activism Research Project, stated that “This is an example of how hashtag activism, with massive public demonstrations and sustained news coverage, can produce big results,” #blacklivesmatter and #Ferguson were very prominent hashtags of the protests that unfolded in Ferguson. They were used to gain national attention, and eventually, leaders of the movement met with President Obama. As a result, funding was requested for 50,000 police body cameras and a task force was created for the purpose of getting specific recommendations on how to build trust between communities and police officers. Following the events of Ferguson, people have seen that hashtag activism can work.
Originally our group wanted to track the metoo hashtag and record data from it’s beginning popularity, peak, and subsequent decline.. However, TAGS only allows us to go back seven days and archive tweets. We felt that looking at the #metoo wouldn’t be as beneficial if we couldn’t go back several months when it was at the height of its popularity.
With that being said, we are tracking the developing #boycottNRA hashtag through TAGS.
TAGS archiving of hashtag:
In the past seven days (since 2/28/2018), there were over several thousand tweets containing the trending hashtag, #boycottNRA. This hashtag has gained traction since the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018. A majority of the tweets containing the hashtag are calling out companies and government officials who support the NRA and demanding they stop supporting the the organization.
Here is a snapshot of TAGSexplorer, which shows the actual tweets instead of just a number. This provided us the ability to sort through the tweets and see which were actively fighting the NRA vs NRA supporters who were criticizing/standing against the hashtag.
Origins of #boycottNRA
This hashtag has been in use on the internet for years. However, it gained popularity after the Parkland shooting. One of the first tweets to use this hashtag in relation to Parkland came from a retired principal, who tweeted it the day after the shooting occured.
Impact of #boycottNRA:
During our tracking of the #boycottNRA feed, we have seen companies directly tagged in tweets. People seem to be asking companies to dissociate with the NRA, and there are a large number of companies that have responded with either the dissolution or the reaffirmation their relationship with the NRA. Many people have decided to cut their ties with companies that still associate themselves with the NRA to show support on the #boycottNRA movement.
This movement has sprung new hashtags related to it like, #boycottFedEx and #boycottAmazon. With an Amazon prime account, Amazon offers the channel NRATV to stream and many people on twitter have also threatened to cancel their membership if they do not remove this tv channel immediately. Users tweeting this hashtag are asking companies to stop selling assault style weapons, bump stocks, and high capacity magazines, as well as to stop giving discounts to NRA members, depending on what the company’s current position and ties are, as well as what that specific company sells.
Dick’s Sporting Goods released a statement citing that they will no longer sell assault style rifles, they will not sell guns to anyone under the age of 21, and they will no longer sell high capacity magazines. This decision comes after the Parkland shooting, and increased pressure of the public. Many people have been tweeting at the company directly, using the #boycottNRA hashtag, to put pressure on them. This has been a controversial decision for Dick’s, with some people expressing their dislike of the decision, but we have found through the #boycottNRA hashtag, that people are expressing their renewed interest and support in the company as a result of their decision.
Many companies have come out against the NRA and are reversing their stance on previous inclusive policies with the NRA. They are no longer offering perks to its members or the organization itself. Others, are changing their stances on gun selling practices within their companies. It is too early to say what, if any, policy changes within the US government will result from this tragedy, but through the use of the #boycottNRA, hashtag activism is hard at work.