Chances are you remember receiving a video clip on social media showing a friend having ice water dumped over their head and then challenging you to either dump a bucket of ice water over your head or donate $100 to the ALS Association within 24 hours of receiving the challenge. Perhaps you continued the chain, sending a video clip of your startled expression as cold ice water ran down your back and people laughed, then challenging a few of your friends to do the same or make a donation. Participants were expected to dump a bucket of ice water over their heads and donate ten dollars to the ALS Association or donate $100 and forgo the ice water. Participants created a video recording of having the ice water dumped on their heads and then challenged a minimum of three friends to participate. These videos were posted on Facebook and shared with the newly challenged individuals.
In July and August of 2014, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge became a viral event on social media, involving everyone from grade school students to celebrities in what was widely seen as a fun activity for a good cause. Indeed, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is much more familiar to the public thanks to this event: Facebook users shared more than 1.2 million challenge videos, Twitter users mentioned the challenge more than 2.2 million times during July and August of 2014, and Wikipedia’s article on ALS exploded from an average of 8,000 hits per day before the challenge to some 430,000 hits on the 21st of August. According to an article in the New York Times, The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raised over 41 million dollars by August 21st. That amount has increased to 114 million dollars as of September 17, 2014.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disease, most famously afflicting baseball legend Lou Gehrig and physicist Steven Hawking. Despite having what one would expect to be an uncontroversial mission of raising money to research a cure for ALS, the phenomenon of the Ice Bucket Challenge is fertile breeding ground for urban legends and intentional misinformation. The ALS Association most recently debunked a fake article published by the satire website Political Ears, in which the ALS Association is accused of admitting to the misuse of Ice Bucket Challenge funds.
Criticism of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge takes up half of the Wikipedia article dedicated to the activity. Critics have taken issue with the campaign for being “too much fun,” and have insulted participants as being armchair clictivists, slactivists, or simply self-congratulatory. It appears multiple critics have suggested that ALS is not a worthy enough cause to enjoy the success of its viral fundraising campaign. A handful of people have publicly refused to participate in the challenge, citing reasons including testing performed on laboratory animals, the use of human embryos in research, and the alleged misuse of funds by the ALS Association. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has also been heavily criticized for being too focused on the stunt at the expense of the actual cause, which is funding a cure for ALS.
Despite criticisms, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was an enormously successful fundraising campaign which collected 114 million dollars as of September 17, 2014. The participation of people from many walks of life has inspired record-setting donations and has raised awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in a unique and impressive manner. The organization meets the high standards set by Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, the Better Business Bureau, and Guidestar.org, which reflects positively on the charity.