By Gabrielle Pagano
Public speaker Nandini Jammi visited the College to share her story in the Library Auditorium on Nov. 19. She spoke of her experience as an activist and co-founder of Sleeping Giants, a social media organization striving to keep companies accountable of their advertisements that promote bigotry and sexism.
Her cause has grown to 400,000 followers on Twitter and Facebook combined, with active branches in 10 other countries. Her mission is to connect with brands and inform them where the billions of dollars they put into their ads actually end up.
“Some of the biggest companies with advertising budgets have no idea where that money goes after it leaves their pockets,” Jammi said.
In many cases, the revenue will fund misinformation, hate groups and child predators. In Jammi’s first campaign reaching out to advertisers in 2016, she asked them to reevaluate whether they were comfortable with their income funding the far-right website Breitbart. The response was overwhelming.
“You could see this effort could get results, these little advertisers were dropping these companies,” she said.
After just 3 months, Breitbart — once on track to cash in on $8 billion — had lost 90 percent of its revenue.
At its core, Sleeping Giants is a movement for the public to mobilize and hold companies accountable for the content they promote on their platform.
Jammi described how hate groups were comfortable openly chanting antisemetic and white nationalist rhetoric. Incidents like Charlottesville and Proud Boys rallies around the country indicate how easy it is for these movements to recruit and manipulate in public spaces.
“People have been radicalized by groups like this, and they’re coming and destroying our communities,” she said. “What Sleeping Giants did — we showed the world that this didn’t happen by accident. Tech companies made it possible.”
By confronting businesses with this reality and questioning whether they are complacent in their funding, Sleeping Giants has encouraged customers to take matters into their own hands by ensuring that companies uphold the values their mission statement and public image claim to support.
It’s a matter of ethical consumerism, according to Jammi. “The answerability is an era in which brands are publicly expected to answer for what they enable and monetize,” she explained. And even when a company offers no answer when such findings are brought to light, she said, that in itself is an answer enough.