How Google Docs became the social media of the resistance

Within the week after George Floyd’s homicide, lots of of 1000’s of individuals joined protests throughout the US and across the globe, demanding schooling, consideration, and justice. However one of many key instruments for organizing these protests is a shocking one: it’s not encrypted, doesn’t depend on signing in to a social community, and wasn’t even designed for this goal. It’s Google Docs.

In simply the final week, Google Docs has emerged as a option to share all the things from lists of books on racism to templates for letters to family members and representatives to lists of funds and resources which can be accepting donations. Shared Google Docs that anybody can view and anybody can edit, anonymously, have turn out to be a beneficial instrument for grassroots organizing throughout each the coronavirus pandemic and the police brutality protests sweeping the US. It’s not the primary time. Actually, activists and campaigners have been utilizing the phrase processing software program for years as a extra environment friendly and accessible protest instrument than both Fb or Twitter.

Google Docs was launched in October 2012. It shortly turned common, not solely as a result of Google electronic mail accounts have been so widespread already, but in addition as a result of it permits a number of customers to collaborate and edit concurrently. Microsoft Phrase, the incumbent, lastly had an actual rival.

Nevertheless it has at all times been used for functions past easy phrase processing. Teenagers have lengthy used Google Docs as a approach of exchanging notes during dull lectures, for instance. Extra lately, through the pandemic, Google Docs have been extensively shared to assist individuals cope with the stress of lockdown. Shelter-in-place orders led to a collection of feel-good lists on the platform, starting from the one the New York Instances ran of actions and reporters’ ideas (“Notes from Our Homes to Yours”) to virtual escape rooms, socially distant comedy shows, crowdsourced and collaborative crosswords, and community grocery lists for people in need.

It wasn’t till the 2016 elections, when misinformation campaigns have been rampant, that the software program got here into its personal as a political instrument. Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communication at Merrimack Faculty, used it to create a 34-page document titled “False, Deceptive, Clickbaity-y, and/or Satirical ‘Information’ Sources.’”

Zimdars impressed a slew of political Google Docs, written by teachers as ad hoc ways of campaigning for Democrats for the 2018 midterm elections. By the point the election handed, Google Docs have been additionally getting used to protest immigration bans and advance the #MeToo motion. 

Now, within the wake of George Floyd’s homicide on Memorial Day weekend, communities are utilizing the software program to prepare. Probably the most common Google Docs to emerge up to now week is “Resources for Accountability and Actions for Black Lives,” which options clear steps individuals can take to help victims of police brutality. It’s organized by Carlisa Johnson, a 28-year-old graduate journalism pupil at Georgia State College. 

Johnson created the Google Doc within the rapid aftermath of George Floyd’s dying, however she had been compiling sources because the dying of Ahmaud Arbery, whose homicide by a father and son in February didn’t result in arrests till video of the incident was launched in Might. “I’ve been doing this [sharing links for direct action] since 2014 with my very own community of family and friends,” Johnson says. She’d by no means created a public Google Doc like this, and selected it over Fb and Twitter as a result of it’s so accessible: “Hyperlinks are probably the most succinct and quickest option to entry issues, and you may’t do this on Fb or Twitter. Once you say ‘Contact your consultant,’ lots of people don’t understand how to try this.” Direct hyperlinks within the Google Doc make it a lot simpler for individuals to get entangled, she says.

One other viral Google Doc that emerged within the wake of George Floyd’s homicide, itemizing sources for protestors and organizations accepting donations, was created by an activist referred to as Indigo, who identifies as nonbinary and makes use of a pseudonym in order to not be outed to relations. Indigo mentioned accessibility and stay modifying have been the first benefits of a Google Doc over social media: “It’s vital to me that the individuals on the bottom can entry these supplies, particularly these searching for authorized counsel, jail help, and bail help. This can be a medium that everybody I’ve organized with makes use of and lots of others use.”

Like Johnson, Indigo had been accumulating sources after Floyd’s homicide—“bookmarking and emailing myself tons of hyperlinks” —and located that “I simply couldn’t sustain with it. It appeared like nobody else may both.” Indigo was pissed off with Twitter, although: “On the off-chance you discover one thing phenomenal, you must retweet, like, or share it in that second or else it’s gone perpetually.” Google Docs was the reply.

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