#StopLumadKillings: Designing a hashtag for a human rights issue

Photo by Kiri Dalena. Some rights reserved.

Developing a social media campaign requires a lot of thought, time and effort especially when developing a campaign for human rights work and social advocacy.

The Rights Con workshop on Hashtags, Memes, and More: Creative Communication Strategies for Advocacy where Blog Watch participated last March 25, 2015, imparted the “Spaghetti Method.” The name comes from the phrase “throwing spaghetti on the wall” and seeing what sticks. Creativity “requires putting your ideas out there, seeing what sticks, iterating, and testing the results.”

Can a hashtag campaign bring not only awareness but a change in policy to end the Lumad killings?

The hashtag creativity came to a test on September 6, five days after the Lumad killings at the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development or ALCADEV on Sept. 1 by Bagani paramilitary forces. Human rights advocates in the Philippines faced a challenge in bringing Lumad awareness in social media . That same week,  three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lifeless image made rounds on social media. “Many Filipino netizens expressed grief and rage, circulating the heart-breaking photo and urging the powerful EU bloc to have a heart.”  Carlos Maningat wrote an article From Syria to Surigao del Sur: Lumad victims need your rage, too , that readers can easily relate to.

We must make noise in social media, my friend announced.

Kailangan umingay ng husto sa issue ng lumad killings. Dahil umiikot pa din ang military sa Bukidnon at Surigao Sur and they are trying to reverse narrative – on radio, say reports, 4th ID now claiming NPA did massacre.


Designing a hashtag

Profile pic #StopLumadKillings created by Journalist, PhilippinesGraphic editor Joel Salud . Some rights reserved.

That afternoon , my advocate friends and I started to “throw spaghetti at the wall” to see what hashtag would stick.

Advocate 1: Please suggest three hashtags for a Lumad campaign awareness.

Me: (clueless) What action do you think ?

Advocate 1 : Call for justice demand to stop killings killings aimed at stealing their lands . There is a suggestion #PHRefugeeCrisis

Me: #JusticeForManobos #JusticeforLumad

Advocate 2: #ManoboHamletting #2015ManoboKillings #ManoboSuppression2015

Let’s not use #PHRefugeeCrisis. Because people might think we are riding on the Syria issue. There should be either manobo or lumad in the hashtag so there is ownership.

Advocate 3: Justice is so overused.

Advocate 1:  Today Manobos…. But the Tampakan Blaan are included… Let’s stick to Lumad

Advocate 2: Then keep Lumad in the hashtag.

Advocate 3 : How about #LumadCrisisPH so it comes out strong?

Me: For me a hashtag is tactical or strategic. Which would you prefer ?

Advocate 4: #DefendLumadLand(s) #StopLumadKillings #DefendManoboLand(s) #StopManoboKillings

Call to action #Justice4Manobos okay … for spreading info #LumadCrisisPH This also #2015ManoboKillings

Advocate 5: #JusticeforManobos

Advocate 1: Wonderful, Advocate 4.

#DefendLumadLand(s) #StopLumadKillings #DefendManoboLand(s) #StopManoboKillings

#DefendLumadLands is strategic…. it is a long struggle

Advocate 5: #StopLumadKillings

Me: Advocate 1 Advocate 5, #justiceformanobos

Advocate 1: thanks so much!  yes #StopLumadKillings and #JusticeforManobos Thank you very much

Throwing “spaghetti on the wall” took only 20 minutes. The #StopLumadKillings hashtag stood out among all the hashtags.

(READ: Hashtags, Memes, and More: Creative Communication Strategies for Advocacy)

The hashtag #StopLumadKillings

The plan was to post articles on Monday, September 7 but I wanted to use the hashtag that Sunday afternoon.

I posted the hashtag #StopLumadKillings with the article, From Syria to Surigao del Sur: Lumad victims need your rage, too.


I also took some content from the article and shared it as follows:

We don’t need to gaze as far as Europe to be reminded that a boy is being killed, families are being displaced, and dreams are being extinguished by structural terror and injustice.

The shares and the retweets surprised me. Was it the title that caught their attention? I was in for another surprise the next day.

The hashtag campaign in action

There are strategies to consider in a hashtag campaign. For example,

– Does the strategy match the content of the hashtag?
– Are there images and gestures that we could add to make it go viral?
– What’s the best platform and audience? Who are the best people to share it out?
– Is this a hashtag to rally the base or help change minds?

At  exactly 8:00 AM, the Human Rights advocates started tweeting. An hour after a deluge of tweets, I received a mention that #StopLumadKillings is a trending topic in the Philippines.

Wow, I didn’t expect that. The hashtag #StopLumadKillings ranked second in the Philippines, next only to the ALDUB hashtag variations. It continued to trend  for the next three days, a. Most of us were tweeting as fast as we could that at one point, the #StopLumadKillings shifted to #StopKillingLumads. The latter hashtag also trended. Carlos Conde took notice of the trending. “The hashtags #StopKillingLumads and #StopLumadKillings are trending on Twitter, one of the rare instances in which a human rights issue has captivated the country’s social media.”

But what is a hashtag trend without any action? By the end of the day, Sen. Grace Poe filed a Senate resolution number 1572 on the spate of harassment, killings of lumads in Mindanao. The Makabayan bloc filed House Resolution No. 2358 , that “there was also need to look into and put a stop to the “escalating killings and massive militarization in the entire island of Mindanao.”

Senator Loren Legarda soon followed and filed filed Senate Resolution No. 1575 “as she expressed concern over the spate of killings of Lumad leaders and other reports about the harassment of indigenous communities in Mindanao.” Senator TG Guingona in a privelege speech, highlighted four points that need to be addressed in order to put a stop to the atrocity of Mahagat Bagani paramilitary, or what he tagged as a “gangster organization.” Even Department of Justice Leila De Lima wants independent’ government probe on Lumad allegations .

There is still a long way to go. “News coverage, social media outrage, and congressional investigations won’t change anything unless the government stops turning a blind eye to the sufferings of the Lumad and starts prosecuting their abusers”, Carlos Conde added.

Let’s continue to share the story of the Lumad online and offline. Michael John, a 15 year old Lumad appeals  “… you help us tell our story, tell the world, what happened to us, visit, see for yourselves.”

SEE ALSO: #StopLumadKillings: Bloggers, netizens & students meet up with 3 Lumad survivors

Ang naglalahong mga Lumad (Unang bahagi)

Ang naglalahong mga lumad (Ikalawang bahagi))

VIRAL: Roxas goes to Lumad camp for photo-op, watch what happens next

From Syria to Surigao del Sur: Lumad victims need your rage, too

DOUBLESPEAK: Aquino’s statement on Lumad killings reveals his complicity