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Big Data Sensors of Organic Advocacy: The case of Leonardo DiCaprio and Climate Change

August 2016

Eric C. Leas, Benjamin M. Althouse, Nick Obradovich, James H. Fowler, Seth M. Noar, Jon-Patrick Allem, John W. Ayers


The research in this article suggests that “top-down advocacy” is becoming less effective compared to “organic advocacy” as a result of social media platforms that make it easier to create and disseminate information. This organic advocacy refers to members of the general population who become advocates for a certain issue. In this case it is climate change. When actor Leonardo DiCaprio used his 2016 Oscar acceptance speech to speak out about the effects of climate change he caused an increase in online discussion about climate change that eclipsed that of the Conference of the Parties and Earth Day. His speech and the subsequent online chatter cast a light on how social media, the Internet, and globalization have made organic advocacy more effective than planned advocacy

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Policy Implications

As planned advocacy seems to be having less of an effect on the general public’s awareness of issues, policymakers will have to make better use of social media to disseminate information. It would also be worthwhile to try and involve celebrities and national icons that are outside of the legislative process. Building infrastructure to better understand organic advocacy and what drives it will allow policymakers to better engage the general public. This also goes for the scientific community. To convey messages about threats like climate change they will have to take greater advantage of social media to spur organic advocacy on issues of immediate importance.

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