Past eventMembersChatham House Forum

Chatham House Forum: How Does Protesting Work in the Age of Social Media?

24 January 2018 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm

Chatham House, London


Professor Jacquelien van Stekelenburg, Faculty of Social Sciences, Social Change and Conflict (SCC), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam



The recognizable hashtags #BlackLivesMatter, #RefugeesWelcome and #BringBackOurGirls offer just a few examples of how online platforms are increasingly used to accelerate the growth of political and social movements.

In recent years, social media has changed the way in which activists are able to organize themselves, promote their message and mobilize support globally for physical demonstrations.

However, while social media has an obvious role in raising the profile of particular issues, are online tools such as petitions and hashtags more effective than traditional methods in affecting real change and impacting policy outcomes? Or are those involved simply ‘clicktivists’ who show no more commitment than pressing a button?

Professor Jacquelien van Stekelenburg argues that while online networks have increased political participation, by allowing participants to frame their ideas through interactions with allies and opponents, physical protests remain vital to achieving change in the age of social media. During the discussion, she outlines how online and offline campaigns can be effectively combined to deliver maximum political impact.

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About Chatham House Forums

Each Chatham House Forum considers a question around an important contemporary debate in international affairs.

An expert speaker will offer a polemic in response - providing their answer to this question and outlining the key arguments that have convinced them of their position. The audience then have the chance to query and challenge the speaker’s views in a Q&A session during the second half of the event.

Each event will be followed by a reception with the speaker, allowing attendees to continue the conversation.