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On 'Flash Causes'

By Tom Watson on February 7, 20084 Comments

In one of the chapters, I’m exploring “Flash Causes,” those instant campaigns that pop up online leveraging passion and technology. One section recalls my own experience with Pakistani civil rights figure Mukhtaran Bibi, one of my personal heroes. Spurred on by a column written by Nicholas Kristof in the Times, I helped to organize a blogger’s campaign to pressure Pakistan into releasing Ms. Bibi. Here’s a bit:

In the end, more than 100 bloggers responded that I know of. And this was before the age of formal social networks, when transmitting the call for a cause became such a simple matter. The story of Mukhtaran Bibi, who eventually won her release and today travels freely to speak about human rights, was the compelling force behind the “flash cause” that I helped to ignite online. Her heroism spurred people to take action: to write, to email, to give money, to post links.  But before the commercial Internet’s dawning, such a fast-moving cause over the story of one woman in a small village in rural Pakistan would never have been given the spark. The ease of communications made it possible; each decision to support the cause – whether a blog posting or an email to a government official – became easier. Ten minutes for an email, 20 minutes for a blog posting, 30 seconds to add a link – the time commitment involved was exceptionally light. This allowed wider participation and stronger distribution of the message.

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