Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism

For you Web app to be successful, you need to have interest from people who want to use it for porn, posting pictures of cats, and digital activism. If there’s no porn the tool likely doesn’t work. If it isn’t being used by activists, there’s likely some major failing with your app as well. And of course, all Web 2.0 apps are all about posting cute pictures of cats. To keep activism alive and unblocked online, raising the stakes by tying activism to something people really want (cute cats) goes along way to keeping the flow of information open.

As Ethan Zuckerman puts it in his 2008 Etech talk on activism, “When you block activist video adorable cats are collateral damage.” Silly notion or the reality of what people really care about? it’s hard to censor stuff on a per-URL basis. It’s far easier to block entire sites. If you block a popular site that is largely filled with cute cats and happens to have activism as well, you run the risk of making the users angry. For activists, the trick is driving up the cost of governments shutting down the medium of communication.