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This Year’s Webbys Showed How Creators Are Fighting Back Against Trump

The awards that honor the best of the internet also reveal how media can be a force of resistance and community in a time of division.

On Monday night, Donald Trump was still the President of the United States. Affordable healthcare was still in question. LGBT rights were still under threat by state lawmakers. But at the 21st annual Webby Awards, which honor internet excellence, it was far easier to be inspired by the creativity and diversity existing under this administration’s nose than it was to be discouraged.

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The Webbys highlights the best and most interesting of the internet, which can often feel like a black hole of content. At this year’s ceremony, the Webbys recognized everyone from Solange and her pivotal record, A Seat At The Table, to Teen Vogue and its web series Ask A Muslim Girl, which won for best social education and discovery video. “People and the internet at large are having a really big reaction to what is happening in the world,” says Webby Awards Media Group CEO David-Michel Davies. “They’re taking notice and trying to do something about it.” To speak to the brevity of the internet, each Webby honoree was allowed a speech of just five words.

Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris [Photo: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Webby Awards]
Fast Company spoke to creators and artists of all kinds during the ceremony, and the thread that tied them all together was a commitment to doing the work and pushing against boundaries in the world we live in. For Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, an author and entrepreneur who created the site Muslimgirl.com and starred in Teen Vogue‘s Ask A Muslim Girl series, it’s about recognizing progress as well as the ways our narratives fall short.

Let it go down in history that we are marking our territory now when everything seems to be stacked up against us,” she says. “Our understanding of Muslims is still so generalized and typecast. There are voices even within the Muslim community that are getting drowned out. But there’s an interest in hearing real, authentic voices and passing the mic to people who aren’t represented.”

Others celebrated at the Webbys included the Internet Archive, an organization that preserves the history of the internet online. Brewster Kahle, who founded the Archive in 1996, has seen the internet constantly reinvent itself, from LiveJournal to Friendster to Twitter.

We’ve got to make a step forward from alternative facts and post-truth,” Kahle says. “Let’s go and put the best of what we have to offer within reach of everybody. Let’s go and put published and reliable works in front of everybody. Let’s comment and debunk the heck out of things.”

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The final award of the night was Best Social Movement of the Year, which went to the Women’s March. Its cofounders weighed in on how they created the sprawling movement while reaching as many kinds of people as possible.

“When we were given these positions we brought along more women of color and people with disabilities to the table. It became what intersectional feminism is supposed to look like,” says co-chair Linda Sarsour. “We like to say nothing we do is perfect, but that we are always being intentional to make sure the very voices that need to be heard most are there.”

Van Jones accepts an award onstage from Joel McHale [Photo: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Webby Awards]
CNN political commentator Van Jones, who was honored for his social media and news work during the election, has an idea for changing the way people interact online: break the algorithm.

“If I follow somebody on Instagram, it tells me, here’s three more people to follow and they’re just like the person I followed,” Jones says. “Here’s three more, here’s three more. Eventually, my feed is all people who are exactly the same. There’s no button you can push that says scramble it. The algorithm is driving us apart. We need something else.”

His five-word speech? “Enough red, enough blue. Purple.”

About the author

P. Claire Dodson is an assistant editor at Fast Company. Follow her on Twitter: @Claire_ifying.

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