Activist media refer to media forms that serve activist purposes. Activism can be radical or moderate; media have multiple forms, encompassing television, photography, cartoons, radio, newspapers, zines, the Internet, and even the body. Many studies of alternative media, radical media, citizen media, underground press, and social movement media fall under our broad definition of activist media. Mainstream media do not, even though sometimes they help to stir or deter contention and sometimes are appropriated by activists.
Activist media are not a new phenomenon. In the early days of the Internet, many independent web sites, discussion lists, and personal websites were activist media. Dominant digital media platforms of the 21st century, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Weibo in China, are commercial enterprises; they resemble mainstream media more than activist media. Yet some of their spaces are used so deliberately and persistently by citizens or civil society groups to voice dissent or make political claims that they take on functions of activist media. Examples are hashtag activism such as #WhyIStayed and #Ferguson.