The Digital Climate Strike: activating the Internet to strike for the planet

Posted October 2, 2019, 1:41 AM

The youth called us to action, and we answered.

At FFTF, our core mission is protecting our rights in the digital age, from net neutrality to privacy. But the climate crisis is an existential threat to all of us, so when youth around the world told us to join them, we sprung into action to move the Internet to help.

This week, the Global Climate Strike erupted around the world, and it’s already the biggest strike — as well as the largest youth mobilization — in history. The leaders of the strike are children and youth who have been striking every Friday since August 2018 to protest global inaction on the climate crisis.

So to back them, we did what we do best:

We activated the Internet.

In partnership with an ad hoc coalition of tech companies, nonprofits, and tech industry workers, we organized the Digital Climate Strike to move some of the largest websites on the Internet to spread the word about the strike and drive traffic there. Our team consisted of an ever-expanding army of volunteers from FFTF, ThoughtWorks, 350.org, Greenmelon, Purpose, ClimateAction.Tech, Open Collective, and many others, who moved organizations around the world to pitch in and take action. And in six short weeks, we pushed the digital strike onto every corner of the Internet.

Heat map of users who saw the widget — doesn’t include social media, independently created banners or webpages.

In total, over 10,000 websites joined the digital strike by adding the banner, which appeared to over 1.5 million people, with over 800,000 direct website hits for globalclimatestrike.net. This led directly to over 30,000 people signing up for the global strikes and the climate movement, accounting for 12 percent of total sign-ups.

Here’s what it looked like.

Banner up!

We developed a custom banner modeled after the SOPA/PIPA strikes and asked companies with a web presence to join our campaign to raise the visibility of the strike.

In the weeks leading up to the strikes, websites raised awareness through small banners like these:

…other websites “greened out” with full page banners, like these ones from Wikimedia Foundation, eCommerce Platforms, and many more:

Still others, like Burton and Lush, made headlines by shutting down their websites and stores locations to ensure that their employees could strike alongside the youth.

Some of the biggest websites included Imgur, Tumblr, and Wordpress. Wordpress gave its users a simple, one-click option to add the widget to a webpage, with a blog post explaining how it works and why they joined in. Companies like Tor, Bumble, and Ecosia also published blog posts explaining what was happening and how people could participate.

Some companies, like Seventh Generation, took the additional step of building their own pages about the strike.

At the eleventh hour, some of the true heavyweights joined in. YouPorn joined in with their custom widget and drove an enormous amount of traffic. (We didn’t exactly tell the kids about it though.)

Subreddits and social media

Where big companies didn’t pitch in, their communities did. Subreddits with over 24 million subscribers joined the climate strikes with pinned posts and banners promoting both the digital strike and the global strike.

At the same time, companies, activists, and thought leaders updated their social media with avatar and banner photos promoting the strike. Seventh Generation gets a special shoutout for promoting Tweets about the climate strike!

The biggest story was definitely the millions of people pouring into the streets for the strike, but news outlets picked up the Digital Climate Strike too, from CNN to NBC to the New York Times.

Overall it was a big success: we increased awareness online and drove turnout at the strikes. Thanks to everyone who participated!

As the students said, change is coming and this is just the beginning. They’re striking every Friday. And the internet and tech community is joining in solidarity. Follow us and stay tuned to join all that’s to come!

More photos below