new corporate activism

The founder of Twitter posted a blog, “The Tweets Must Flow“. At the same time, working with Twitter, Google introduced voice-enabled Twitting service in order allow Internet-striped Egyptians to tweet through a voice mail. They are heralded as heroic acts by many internet zealots. And it fits nicely into a narrative of technology as a force for positive social change. These two are visible forms of corporate activism by two firms that represent social media. Given how corporations are often associated with the forces of resistance to change, this is a refreshing development.

However, this type of new corporate activism makes me a bit uncomfortable as well. After all, these two companies represent the “face” of social media industry. What is not clear is how much of this new corporative activism by Twitter and Google is indeed motivated by their commercial calculations. Indeed, these were really good PR stunts, if I take a very cynical perspective. After all, they are only accountable to their shareholders. In fact, Twitter is not even a public company yet. These companies are led by executives who are only accountable to their investors.

While I, along with millions of social media users, cheer for the stance that they take on this issue, I wonder will we do the same if they take a similar unilateral corporative activism stance on more controversial issues? In fact, will they take a similar stance even if their commercial interests can be compromised? Not that I am suspicious about their motivations, we need people who remain skeptical and vigilant about these new corporate activisms.

Professor | Writer | Teacher Digital Innovation, Design, Organizational Genetics Case Western Reserve University

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