Social Media Looms Large in Komen’s Latest Decision

Hyperbole may often be used when describing the impact of social media, but over the last month, its power has been undeniable in helping organize people to inspire—or prevent—change. Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced on Friday, Feb. 3, it would "amend" its decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood. The announcement comes just three days after Komen said it would no longer fund groups under federal investigation, citing a probe launched by a Florida congressman.

"We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities," said founder and CEO Nancy G. Brinker in a statement. "Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair."

As of noon on Friday, both "Planned Parenthood" and "Cure Foundation" were trending on Twitter in the U.S., which is fitting, considering the role social media had in both expediting the spread of the news and helping band together those furious over Komen's initial decision. 

Komen was inundated with negative comments via e-mails, on Twitter and on its Facebook page. Many of the messages conveyed a determination to halt gifts to Komen—organizer of the popular Race for the Cure events—because of the decision. 

On Wednesday, when Planned Parenthood posted a photo with the text "Still Standing With Planned Parenthood," and asked the question, "Are you? Share!", the image was shared 21,610 times, likely reaching millions of people on Facebook alone. On Twitter, Planned Parenthood's @PPact account was used to retweet politicians and celebrities that voiced their allegiance to Planned Parenthood, and used the #standwithPP hashtag as a way to foster and house the dialogue around the contentious decision. They also showcased the "Planned Parenthood Saved My Life" blog across their social networks to show how the centers help women stay healthy through proper breast care screenings. 

Not only did Planned Parenthood use social media to help turn public sentiment in its favor, it also created a fundraising machine. "The outpouring of support online for Planned Parenthood and women in need of breast cancer screenings has been astonishing, and because of it, the PP Breast Health Fund has received more than $3 million from thousands of people across the country in only three days," wrote Planned Parenthood on its Facebook page Friday. 

As the next presidential election approaches—one that is shaping up to be turbulent—you can expect we'll see more and more hashtags and Facebook shares to influence the public.

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg