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Social Media Fuels Planned Parenthood Backers in Komen Protest

Fueled by a firestorm of outrage on Twitter and Facebook, the people behind the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Friday backed off their decision to cut funding of Planned Parenthood programs.

On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood alerted its twitter followers that the Komen organization had stopped funding for breast cancer screenings at its health centers around the country. After three days of protests by Planned Parenthood backers, Komen today reversed that decision and said it will continue its previous funding plans.

The decision comes after thousands of people took took their fury to sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Komen's own message board.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood this week relentlessly posted comments about the situation, along with links to news articles and retweeted messages. They essentially kept the discussion going and kept the pressure on Komen.

"Social networks are increasingly being used to whip up vast waves of indignation and outrage directed at the villian of the moment," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "It's been pretty effective so far. When it's done correctly, a nice echo chamber is set up."

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, noted that social media is enabling the next evolution in activism.

"Social networks are the new tool for activism and public battles," he added. "Just like advertisers attempt to drive impressions and action wherever the consumer is, activists need to do the same. This is the natural evolution of the protest."

Last month, widespread use of Facebook, Google+, Twitter and other social networks was credited with spreading vast opposition to the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act anti-piracy bills before the U.S. Congress.

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Moorhead noted that online social protests are much more personal than if people are simply reading headlines about two organizations doing battle.

"The investment of 140 characters and one button rebroadcast to your followers couldn't be easier," he added. "It's about immediacy. Protesters don't even have to get out of bed."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin , or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com .

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