From the Forest to Facebook: Analyzing the Online Activism of an Environmental Justice Movement in Guatemala
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Social media is among the most recent tools of propaganda used to manipulate the public; it has the required ingredients to reach a wide audience while lacking the regulations that exist for other forms of mass media designed to prevent the spread of misinformation. While recognizing these concerns, this thesis demonstrates that social media is not always a tool for manipulation. Rather, social media also serves as an invaluable political tool that grassroots social movements use to pursue environmental and social justice. To support this argument, this thesis analyzes the online presence and content of the Association of Petén’s Forest Communities (ACOFOP) in Guatemala on Facebook over a six-month period. ACOFOP’s indigenous and non-indigneous members manage the world’s largest community forest and form part of many international land rights and conservation alliances. To understand how ACOFOP uses social media to pursue and achieve its political objectives, the author conducted a content analysis of ACOFOP’s Facebook page over a six-month period. Using open coding methods, this analysis reveals that ACOFOP uses social media in order to 1) strengthen its international solidarity networks, 2) protect and advocate for indigenous rights around the world, 3) fight climate change, and most importantly, to secure their members’ land rights that are currently threatened by outside economic interests and large-scale development projects.