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Stoneman Douglas survivors become social media sensations

Emma Gonzalez builds huge following in matter of days

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PARKLAND, Fla. – Several students who survived the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School are now leveraging sizable social media followings as they press politicians for change on gun laws.

Emma Gonzalez launched her Twitter account on Feb. 16, a day before she gave an impassioned speech on gun control in Fort Lauderdale. 

By Sunday afternoon, Gonzalez had more than 770,000 followers on the social media network. Some were quick note that she now has more followers than the National Rifle Association and its spokeswoman and conservative media personality Dana Loesch.

"As of today, @Emma4Change now has more followers than the @NRA. It happened in less than two weeks," House of Cards creator Beau Willimon said on Twitter.  "This is a movement. This is the future. Change is now."

Fellow Stoneman Douglas activists Sarah Chadwick, David Hogg, and Cameron Kasky all have more than 200,000 followers on Twitter.

"This is the YouTube, the Instagram, the Snapchat generation," Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote of the students. "Communicating immediately and effectively is second nature. Even in their pain and fear — no, especially in their pain and fear — they knew what to do."

The students' profiles have risen in recent days as several websites falsely accused them of being "crisis actors." In response, the students have become more visible, making multiple appearances on cable news and talk shows in an effort to promote their cause.

The students are planning the "March for Our Lives," a national protest set for March 24 in Washington, D.C. They have also urged sweeping changes to national and state gun laws, including banning weapons like the AR-15 rifle used by gunman Nikolas Cruz.

The students have been busy with activism while Stoneman Douglas has been closed following the shooting. But this week, they will have to juggle their newfound celebrity with the demands of school work.

Kasky, for one, said he'll welcome the change.

"Working with money people and law people and everybody else from home today," Kasky said Sunday. "Never thought I’d actually be excited to return to school."