Social media | Tech ethics | Tech for good

5 ways social media has been used for good

We’ve looked before at how the internet and social media have been used by people to do amazing things and bring a little joy to the world. But, with so many good deeds going on across Facebook, Twitter and the internet as a whole, we’ve decided to show another few great examples of how the internet has been used for good.

By Reason Digital · August 15, 2013

Fighting sexism on social media

As with all tools, sometimes social media isn’t always used for the right purposes. There are some people who use it to offend, insult or demean other people. This was the case on Facebook, where several groups of people set up pages to make jokes and content about rape and domestic violence. While Facebook moderates such pages and takes down content which is deemed to be against its terms and conditions, these pages stayed up.

screenshot of social media post


This spurred Laura Bates, Soraya Chemaly and Jaclyn Friedman into action and the three set out to get the content removed from Facebook. But early attempts to use Facebook’s inappropriate content reporting system failed and contacting Facebook directly proved fruitless. So the trio took a different tact and took to Twitter to target advertisers. They prompted people to tweet to Facebook’s advertising affiliates to tell them that their adverts were appearing alongside offensive content, with the hashtag #FBRape.

The campaign was a success with over 60,000 tweets sent and 15 major advertisers convinced to remove their adverts from Facebook. It was so successful that Facebook conceded defeat and issued a statement saying that they should not have allowed such content on the site and will be taking future steps to prevent this problem from reoccurring.

Using Facebook to teach

School kids are growing up in an unusual time. This is the first generation who have grown up with a truly ubiquitous internet, they’re first for whom a time before Facebook is incomprehensible. How can those who grew up without the internet connect and teach this new generation for whom a keyboard may feel more natural than a pen? Well, an Amsterdam school has come up with a fun and inventive solution using Facebook’s timeline feature.

To teach four periods of history: Magellan’s voyage, the rise and fall of the soviet union, inventions of the 20th century,and Fashion from the 50s onward; the school uses the cover photos, which are the focal point of the page, to draw people in with eye-catching pictures such as a map of Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage across the globe. Then by using the timeline feature, which allows people to add ‘events’ to a Facebook page, the school has detailed the major events of historical subjects. It’s a simple and elegant solution that enables kids to learn historical information in a fun and accessible way.

facebook page teaching about history

Uncovering corruption in China

The great firewall of China blocks off large parts of the internet and censors users in the country. Both Twitter and Facebook have been banned from the country for spreading dissidence, but even under such constraints people have found ways in which social media can do good.

Users on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, have exposed a number of government officials who are corrupt, such as Yan Linkun, an official whose destructive rampage after being left unable to board a flight was captured on video. This video, which showed Linkun smashing up an airport, was widely circulated amongst Weibo users and led to Linkun’s dismissal from his position.

Giving gifts on a grand scale

Reddit is an unusual cross between news aggregator and social network; it’s difficult to define exactly what the website is. However, what is clear though is that there is a strong and vibrant Reddit community. We’ve covered before some of the nice thing done by Redditors, but RedditGifts is something slightly different, it’s a more long-term and concerted attempt at good.

Born from the Reddit community, RedditGifts was a gift exchange scheme for Christmas 2009. The idea quickly took off and returned the next year, with over 17,000 people taking part. Since then the project has expanded, moving to its own site and making the gift-giving a year-round pastime, with themed gift exchanges throughout the year. One such exchange was ‘redditgifts for the troops’ which was participated in by over 3,000 people who gave over $20,000 of gifts.

man wearing reddit gifts tshirt

Returning photos to those struck by tornados

Being struck by a natural disaster is truly tragic. People can have all their possessions torn from them in an instant. Though financially ruined, the thing that many people miss the most is their photos. It’s impossible to put a price on sentimentality or the memories and emotions that a simple photo can bring back.

This is something the people of Oklahoma found out when, in the May of 2013, a tornado struck and devastated the property and lives of many locals. There was an outpouring of sympathy and offers of help across social networks. Concerned Facebook users also set up groups such as “MAY 2013 Oklahoma Tornado Doc & Photo Recovery Page” and “Oklahoma Photo Rescue”, to help comfort those who had been affected by the tornado.

In these groups users uploaded photos that were found amongst the rubble, with the hopes of identifying the owner and reuniting them with their pictures. Over 12,000 people joined the original Oklahoma photo group, with more joining the others and through the power of social media users banded together and helped return photos, and a little bit of joy, back to some Oklahoma residents.