News / Asia

MTV Takes on Human Trafficking

MTV logo.
MTV logo.
Sara Schonhardt
The American-based cable and satellite channel MTV is training young people in Southeast Asia to use social media to raise awareness about human trafficking.  It is part of a global campaign to end the practice and event organizers and participants say social media amplifies the message. But critics of such campaigns say they have their limitations.

Raising Awareness

MTV has been working to raise awareness about human trafficking for nearly a decade through concerts, television documentaries and music videos. Now, it is through a campaign known as MTVExit, it is putting on awareness-raising concerts around the world and training youths how to use Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms to spread the fight against human trafficking.

Last week, 25 young people from around Southeast Asia participated in a four-day workshop where they learned how to link their offline activism to the Internet, increase their number of followers and craft messages about human trafficking to appeal to new audiences.

Putri Damayanti is a youth ambassador from Indonesia, campaigning for MTVExit. “To solve problems you have to make people aware about that issue first, so they will, like, care about these issues and also spread the idea that you could contribute," she said. "And also you could help to solve this problem by just a single click to change the world.”

She says social media is vital in Asia and believes it is the right medium through which to spread a message about human trafficking.

Appealing to youth

Indonesia has one of the world’s most active social media communities, with more than 70 million Facebook and Twitter users combined. People here frequently use social networking sites to advertise a message or campaign for a cause.

But some of MTV’s youth ambassadors come from countries or communities that are less plugged in.

One youth working for a refugee organization, Help Without Frontiers, along the Thai-Burma border said people there use Facebook, YouTube and Weblogs. But her group still relies on short documentaries and theater to reach target communities, mostly migrant workers who do not have much access to social media.

Critics of social media campaigns say this is one reason they often fail as an empowerment strategy for at risk groups in developing countries.

Author B.J. Mendelson,  who wrote the highly critical book "Social Media is Bullshit", explained, "What we’re talking about is trying to reach people who might not be as educated or might not have the latest Apple product that they’re using to access the Web. It’s entirely possible that they can reach people who are in need, I don’t dispute that. What I do dispute is that they can reach a lot of those people because of the socioeconomic issues that are in play.”

Human trafficking, a global problem

Human trafficking is widespread in Southeast Asia. All 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are either origin, transit or destination countries. More than half of the world’s 22 million trafficking victims come through the region.

Officials in ASEAN say they have worked to build member states’ criminal justice systems to go after and prosecute those involved in human trafficking. But they have also realized the need for more education and believe messages like those being spread through social media are one key way of raising awareness.

Khine Myat Chit, is a senior officer in ASEAN’s Security Cooperation Division. “The number of cases are not going down because it is a very high profit, low-cost and human trade, so that’s why we are expanding our focus to include the youth and the public, of course,” noted Chit.

On December 16th, Burma will host its first ever MTVExit concert, headlined by U.S. pop star Jason Mraz. In the run up, organizers are hoping to get one million people to share the mention #EXITslavery, which links to a video about human trafficking.

Spreading the message

On the campaign’s webpage it says all it takes is a click, a share or a post to support the campaign. But critics say online campaigns are often excessively ambitious and are not the proper tool for social organizing because Tweets tend to live online for only a short time.

Although social media can serve as a powerful tool to educate people and raise awareness, Mendelson worries that it has also made people complacent.

“It’s become incredibly difficult to actually get people to do more than click the like button.  And, it does curtail the possibility that an online campaign could be as successful as it could because people are now conditioned to just like things and we think that’s the extent of what we need to do to make something happen,” Mendelson stated.

Tara Dermott, the lead developer of MTVExit, says that is why tapping communities of traditional activists who are used to on-the-ground campaigning strengthens the network. “These youth are really focused on the fact that these actions are not supposed to stay online. It’s digital activism that’s really, really closely tied to on the ground action,” she said.

And, although it is difficult to determine whether online activism directly translates into offline action, many of MTVExit’s young ambassadors say it is a step in the right direction.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Dana Steinbach from: Wichita, KS
December 07, 2012 8:42 AM
Why criticize such a powerful tool as social media? Like Tara Dermott said, it is just one more powerful weapon to be used in addition to work being done "on-the-ground'....Use whatever gets the word out and increases awareness and decreases ignorance and complacency.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid