Harnessing Social Media Tools to Fight Corruption
Topic: Social Media/Corruption University Involved: London School of Economics and Political Science Students Involved: 5 Year: 2011
Transparency International‘s 2011-2015 strategy recognises that much more needs to be done to move beyond established policy circles and mobilise a broader range of citizens to take action against corruption. Social media tools will need to be harnessed by TI to reach and maintain meaningful engagement with these groups. However, the potential of social media also brings with it several challenges. This report by five students from LSE identifies ten distinct yet mutually reinforcing recommendations that can support TI‘s efforts to employ social media and establish new networks of anti-corruption volunteers.
1. Technologies should be chosen carefully. Technological initiatives should not be quickly rolled out at the expense of a campaign‘s ultimate reach and effectiveness. Sophisticated tools are not always ideal; some of the more impressive social media campaigns utilise one well-known platform and do it well.
2. Mobile technology should be used to address the digital divide. Internet-enabled mobile phones are a possible solution to the challenge of computer and Internet access in developing countries. Organisations should create low-bandwidth versions of their websites to make them accessible through a broader range of mobile devices.
3. Resources should be allocated to keep platforms updated and active. While social media is more cost-effective than other outreach efforts, proper maintenance will still require regular investment in human capital. Successful social media initiatives have dedicated staff assigned to monitor the online performance of their projects.
4. A sustainable frequency of new-content publication should be maintained from the start. Stronger social media initiatives produce a relatively small, slow, yet steady stream of updates. Starting with a sustainable frequency of new content will enable an organisation‘s online presence to grow gradually, without overwhelming users.
5. Technologies designed for information verification should be used to validate crowdsourced content. Emerging technologies and software can be used to grant legitimacy to campaigns using crowdsourced data. Platforms that triangulate and authenticate data minimise the risk of false reports, and should be used whenever possible.
6. Micro-volunteerism should be employed to address issues of time constraints among potential volunteers. Deskilling and outsourcing helps tap into the technically diverse skill-sets of people across geographical locations. Providing volunteers with a cost-free and user-friendly interface to do so can contribute to broader online anti-corruption initiatives and campaigns.
7. An emotional narrative should be adopted. Individuals who feel they can relate to an injustice committed against another are more likely to participate in collective action. An accessible emotional narrative of anti-corruption will help motivate and encourage participation.
8. Project visibility and resources should be used as indicators of impact. Support for an anti-corruption initiative can be garnered by emphasising its likelihood of success. A large number of volunteers, a substantial budget, and high-profile endorsements are just a few examples.
9. Offline opportunities should be provided to foster a sense of community among volunteers. The overlapping nature of online and offline interactions among social network users implies that virtual interpersonal connections will have impact on live activities, and vice versa. Live events can help build and consolidate emotional links central to the motivation of participants
10. Social media initiatives should be designed with a focus on changing attitudes towards corruption. Systemic corruption can by confronted by targeting social norms, and encouraging realistic alternatives and pathways to change. Successful initiatives should go beyond their stated aims by investing in the capacity of civic engagement, which will impact public acceptance of corruption.