Courtesy of Creative Commons
Twitter, throughout its many years at our service, has been a platform used for a variety of purposes. More recently, it has become an effective tool to incite social change. But how much influence can social media really have, and can societal reform be accomplished by just sharing a post?
Around four months ago, a video on Alice Marie Johnson, a black woman who was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for a nonviolent drug offense she had committed, was shared by millions on Twitter. An interview with Johnson twenty years into her sentence provided a more personal understanding of the relationship between black Americans and the criminal justice system in the United States.
Like many others, Kim Kardashian West came across the video on her Twitter timeline, but made the decision to do more than simply share it.
West took immediate action and contacted her personal attorney, Shawn Chapman, to see if she could look into Johnson’s case. Per the advice of her attorney, West hired Johnson new representation to aid her in the legal matters concerning her sentence. But West wanted to do more.
In an interview with Mic, she said, “I’ll do whatever it takes to get her [Alice] out [of prison]”.
A short time later, West was communicating with the White House, discussing criminal justice reform with Jared Kushner and trying to set up a meeting with president Donald Trump. Eventually, a date was set, and West headed to Washington D.C. with the intention to finally free Johnson after spending two decades behind bars.
It took only one meeting with the president, and not long after, both West and Trump announced that Johnson had been granted clemency. Johnson’s sentence was commuted, and she was finally set to be freed from her correctional facility the next day.
Although Twitter was the main platform where Johnson’s video was viewed and shared, West pushed the movement that started on the social media site forward. So who should receive the credit, Twitter or West?
“I just think that so many young people have such a big voice, and it’s really inspiring to see. And also just to know how powerful social media is. You can be clicking through and see something that just tugs at your heart and changes your life and someone else’s life. Maybe someone becomes sparked by someone else’s story,” said West
It can be argued, however, that West should be the one to receive praise, and for good reason. She is an internationally known celebrity who has the money, influence, and status to push forward a project like this that the regular citizen just does not have, even the aid of social media.
Regardless of this, social media will continue to be a platform where its users advocate for change. West, on the other hand, is now fighting once again to free Chris Young, another black American in prison for a nonviolent drug offense.