Advocating “Refugees” for Social Justice: Questioning Victimhood and Voice in NGOs’ Use of Twitter

Michael Dokyum Kim


This study examines nongovernmental organizations’ (NGOs) use of Twitter as a space for communicating advocacy, analyzing 706 tweets of the two largest British refugee-specific NGOs. It conceptualizes NGOs’ social media as an institutionalized space for and about social justice, facilitating refugee representation and articulating voices, and critically addresses how Twitter is used for and about social justice. The analysis reveals that NGOs actively use Twitter for social justice yet advocate refugees in ways that homogenize and silence their voices—both as process and value. This silencing produces double victimization, wherein the “refugees” remain outside the boundary of the “experts,” physically and symbolically suppressing their personhood. An analysis in the pandemic context further confirms that this symbolic boundary between “us” and “them” is more likely to be heightened rather than dismantled. The study argues that social media may act as an active platform that invites us into NGO’s humanitarian imaginary, privileging its institutional network and legitimacy. Implications for NGO-ized humanitarian advocacy in the digital sphere are further discussed.


advocacy communication, social justice, voice, refugee, social media, Twitter, NGO, representation

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