WASHINGTON: A recent study has suggested that online campaigns about humanitarian crises need to be more surprising in order to successfully engage the public.
The University of East Anglia (UEA) research by Dr Martin Scott aimed to explore why UK citizens respond to some online campaigns and communications concerning overseas crises and not others.
It is often suggested that the internet promotes greater understanding of humanitarian crises and encourages people to become more involved through forums and social media and by signing online petitions, making ethical purchases and donating money.
However, this new research identified a number of key reasons people give for not responding to campaigns or actively seeking out more information.
These include the time needed to find and search through material online and a lack of trust in sources such as governments and charities. Information from most non-news sources - including blogs and social media - was frequently rejected by many in the study for being inaccurate or biased.
Scott said that the findings suggest that the internet is not a magic bullet for getting people engaged with or caring about humanitarian issues or crises.
However, participants reacted more much more positively to campaigns and information from organisations they did not recognise, such as Charity Navigator - which helps people make decisions about how and where they donate their money - Poverty.com and the Overseas Development Institute, compared to well-known charities like Oxfam, Christian Aid and Save the Children.
Scott suggests that audiences have become accustomed to and are often dismissive of traditional campaigns and appeals.
The study is published in the journal International Communication Gazette.