Social media activism is often criticized for being too passive—it’s easy to use a hashtag to support a cause or add a Facebook-provided filter to your profile photo, but it’s much harder to actually put physical effort or real money behind your words.
But Planned Parenthood has found that this so-called “slacktivism” goes a long way toward changing hearts and minds. The nonprofit organization, which provides preventative reproductive care and family planning resources to men and women of all incomes, announced at South by Southwest that it’s launching a new compaign with popular blogging platform Tumblr to raise awareness about its real-life impact. On March 29, Planned Parenthood is encouraging people to use the hashtag #TechStandsWithPP to share stories about how the nonprofit has affected their lives.
A conversation between Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp was one of the highlights of South by Southwest’s first day of tech-related programming. Planned Parenthood and Tumblr seem like an odd pairing, but the nonprofit has used the blogging platform as a sex ed platform for years, and Karp is now a board member. He advised Planned Parenthood on creating a mobile-optimized online appointment system, and last year the organization booked almost a million appointments from smartphone users.
In the new health care bill that the House of Representatives introduced this week to replace the Affordable Care Act, health care providers who offer abortions would no longer receive federal reimbursements for preventative services under Medicaid. Richards said the social activism campaign and hashtag is timed to fight that legislation. The goal is to “pink out the internet,” she said.
“This is the time,” Richards said. “This is not a test. This is the real thing.”
A hashtag might seem like a trivial show of support, but Karp said the stories that people share on Tumblr about their lives give others more empathy—suddenly the political is personal.
SXSW is itself becoming more political this year. A chunk of the annual music, tech, and film festival’s programming is dedicated to “tech under Trump,” which includes panels on everything from the proliferation of fake news on Facebook to tech policy under the Trump Administration. It’s not a surprising move—after all, the conference is designed to tackle the trends and big ideas of the moment. After the Edward Snowden leaks, the talk of the 2014 festival was surveillance. Snowden even videoconferenced in for a keynote.
This year, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker was SXSW’s opening keynote speaker, and Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to speak on Sunday. FBI Director James Comey was scheduled to appear, but he withdrew days before the festival due to “scheduling conflicts.”