Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw in “The Agenda-Setting Function of the Media” (1972) claimed that the power of the media to set a nation’s agenda, to focus public attention on key public concerns, including gender issues, is highly significant. This implies that the media can influence what the public think about. However, the statement is, to a large extent, in reference to the traditional or mainstream media. We live in a digital age. What about the new media or social media? Can social media platforms (SMPs) such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook be used to set the agenda for change in contemporary society? Can SMPs be used to focus the attention of the public on gender issues, particularly on how to address sexual and other forms of violence against women? Can these platforms engender social change or they are just tools for leisure or entertainment? Employing descriptive and observational methods this article investigates three social media campaigns on Twitter and Facebook – He For She, Bring Back Our Girls and My Dress My Choice – with a view to assessing their capacity to set the public’s agenda towards combating sexual violence against women and whether social media is an effective tool to create awareness on what is at issue. While we argue that the social media is an acknowledged change agent which is capable of mobilizing the public to stand up against incidents of sexual violence, among other gender issues, the conclusion reached is that in the three instances we examined, the momentum is often short-lived.
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