Kony 2012: a viral murderer

InvisibleChildren is an NGO that emerged in 2004 with the goal of letting others know about African children in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The organization intends to end the LRA illegal practices that include abuse and abduction of children, forcing them to become soldiers. 

To promote their cause, InvisibleChildren use documentary films, which they share through social networks. Their last campaign featured Joseph Kony, the founder of the Lord’s Resistance Army. It is estimated that this war criminal has abducted more than 30,000 children so far, forcing them into being soldiers or “wives” to his officers. NGO founders say that in making him famous they do not condone his crimes, but rather expose them so that more people are aware of his atrocious practices and unite to arrest him. 

The truth is that the campaign generated a big stir among network users. The foundation was accused of not providing solid data on terrorism in Uganda and being an “undercover” excuse for the US troops to enter the country. The African country’s own government defined the video as “a gross misinterpretation of the conflict and efforts to stop it”. On the other hand, the campaign is seen as a serious threat to the tourism development in Uganda, which has become one of the country’s most important industries. 

When the waters parted, the NGO was supported by major entertainment figures such as Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Angelina Jolie and George Clooney. The latter said through his Twitter account, “I’d like indicted war criminals to enjoy the same level of celebrity as me, I think it’s fair”, clearly showing his firm support of InvisibleChildren

Mission Accomplished

The initial goal of InvisibleChildren has been accomplished. Beyond the criticism and online confrontation generated by the campaign, today the whole world knows who is Joseph Kony. A video that tells a story of an alleged child soldier and calls the world to act against the criminal has become one of the most seen viral pieces in history, surpassing 100 million hits in just 6 days.

On the other hand, speaking of numbers, it has raised $4 million in the first 48 hours of playback thanks to the public advertizing. In the course of the campaign, the NGO put on sale an “action kit”, which was depleted, so that on April 20 people could fill their cities with slogans against Kony. 

This campaign is a great example of good use of the network, not only because it has reached its goals, but also because it went beyond the imagination of its creators setting new examples for the online broadcasting world. There is little doubt that social networks continue to grow. Their potential to act as a spokesperson for social movements and campaigns for public good is remarkable. Users are invited to participate and be on equal terms with those who support their ideas, be it a known person, a politician or an ordinary citizen.

It is not the first time when the net is used to promote public welfare causes. Earlier this year in the UK a campaign “Responsbile Reform” was launched, which exposed mistakes made by the British government in delivery of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). The media ignored both the report and the campaign. Seeing that there was no reaction, a group of disabled people launched an action on Twitter. That day, thousands of people left their opinion under the “#spartacusreport” tag, making it a “Trending Topic” for the most part of the day. 

Renowned stars echoed the problem leaving their message about the “Hashtag”. A generated through the network impact was so great that British ministers had to give explanations about the reforms, using the same tag. This marked a new precedent in terms of online sociability, since even the government representatives felt obliged to join the debate, though under the terms imposed by a dissident group. 

It is indisputable that social networks have become an excellent tool for users to express their concerns, listen to others and fight for what seems fair to them. The prominence of the Web goes far beyond the commercial: it can also act as a channel to enhance the voice of those who fight for a greater social welfare.

In the case of InvisibleChildren, we find a controversial campaign, which has received a lot of criticism for its use of finances raised due to its online success. But this polemics should not distract us from the main point: the potential of the Internet as a tool to promote justice and equality, and to make our world a little better every day.