When slacktivism matters: on the organization and outcomes of online protests targeting firms

Tijs Adriaan van den Broek

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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Activists increasingly organize online protests to pressurize firms into changing their policies or practices. These online protests often require little effort from participants, such as retweeting a Twitter hashtag. Hence, critics consider online protests requiring little effort as slacktivism: An easy and worthless substitute for more strenuous forms of activism. This dissertation takes a multimethod approach to study when online slacktivism matters. The findings show that slacktivism does matter when it is well-organized. First, digital media have spurred the emergence of internet-based protest organizations – dotcauses – that require less resources than formal activist groups and employ more entrepreneurial strategies. Second, the effects of online protests depend on how they are embedded in broader campaign strategies. A confrontational frame required to mobilize protest participants on the internet may conflict with a cooperative frame of lobbying efforts. Third, protest organizers need to adapt the design and framing of their online protests to slacktivists as these protest participants are more receptive to design cues and identify more strongly with the oppressed group protests side with. Last, the impact study demonstrates that online protests, when sufficiently large, decrease firms’ share value, reputation, and revenue. A response that approaches the protesters' demands may mitigate the damage done to the firm’s revenue, but not the damage done to the firm’s reputation.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Groen, Aard, Supervisor
  • Ehrenhard, Michel, Co-Supervisor
  • Langley, D.J., Co-Supervisor, External person
Award date21 Jan 2016
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-94-028-0022-7
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2016


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