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03.30.13

Facebook: Equality Meme Draws 2.7 Million Supporters for Marriage Equality

A surprising number of profile pictures on the social network were switched over to an equality sign in support of same-sex marriage this week, a coup for the Human Rights Campaign.

At around 1 p.m. ET on Monday, the Human Rights Campaign—America’s largest organization fighting for LGBT rights—posted a red version (synonymous with love) of their blue and yellow equality sign to Facebook, and urged their approximately 1.4 million followers to change their profile pictures to the sign and share it liberally within their networks. The move was done in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, when the highest court in the land heard arguments concerning same-sex marriage.

“Who’s wearing red tomorrow? Show your support for marriage equality—make your profile image red for tomorrow and check out http://www.hrc.org/StandForMarriage for more ways to get involved!” the post read.

The post has been shared more than  71,000 times as of Friday evening and, according to a post on Facebook by Eytan Bakshy, a researcher on the Facebook Data Science Team, “roughly 2.7 million (120 percent) more users, updated their profile photo on Tuesday, March 26 compared to the previous Tuesday.”

Facebook’s team of analysts also concluded that those closest to age 30 showed the greatest increase in updating their profile pictures, with approximately 3.5 percent of them doing so due to the HRC campaign. And more women participated in the initiative than males, with 2.3 percent more of self-reported female users updating their profile photos, compared to 2.1 percent more of self-reported males.

The highest degree of activity in the campaign took place in college towns, including Washtenaw County—home of the University of Michigan—which saw a high of 6.2 percent of Facebook users change their profile pictures for the campaign. Other counties that saw a high degree of activity were “Orange (University of North Carolina), Durham (Duke University), Monroe (Indiana University), Johnson (University of Iowa), Athens (Ohio University), Dane (University of Wisconsin), Boulder (University of Colorado), and Travis (University of Texas at Austin),” according to Facebook.

“For a long time, when people stood up for a cause and weren’t all physically standing shoulder to shoulder, the size of their impact wasn’t immediately apparent,” wrote Bakshy. “But today, we can see the spread of an idea online in greater detail than ever before. That’s data well worth finding.”

In addition to the standard red equality sign commissioned by the HRC, users of the social network got creative, posting Photoshopped pictures of characters from pop culture bearing the sign, such as Sesame Street’s Bert & Ernie, Iron Man, and The Beatles. The tech site Mashable has a great gallery of pictures you can check out here.

And the Human Rights Campaign’s logo received such strong support that the organization has begun selling red HRC equality logo stickers. They cost $5 apiece, with all proceeds going toward the “nationwide fight for equality.”

One of the most popular Facebook posts, meanwhile, came courtesy of pop diva Beyoncé. The singer posted a red picture on Tuesday that said, “If you like it, you should be able to put on a ring on it #wewillunite4marriageequality!” The post has received over 121,000 likes and over 35,000 shares as of Friday night.