“From our own correspondent: The Kony 2012 campaign and the effect of Social Media”

In this feature, I will be talking about the affect of social media on the Kony 2012 campaign, exploring the benefits and disadvantages of using this medium.
Kony 2012 went viral on March 7th 2012. I know exactly when I heard about it, exactly what I was doing and it stuck with me forever. Surely this describes how compelling the documentary is?
Kony 2012 is a half-hour documentary that is supported by Invisible Children, a charity that was co-founded by Jason Russell, in 2005, to fight African war atrocities. The video is based on Joseph Kony, with the specific aim to make him famous, not in celebration but to make the world aware of his crimes and to fight for his arrest…
Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army has been said to have abducted around 60,000 children; forced the boys to kill their parents and turned the girls into sex slaves. Kony is at the top of the International Criminal Court’s ‘Most Wanted List’.
Over the years many of those individuals on the ICC’s list of wanted people have been “brought to justice” as it were…
We saw the death of Osama Bin Laden last year, one of the world’s most notorious terrorists, killed at a hideout in Pakistan. Then it was onto Libya and the uprising of people there, eventually resulting in the regime of Colonel Gadaffi being toppled and the former Libyan leader killed, after months of conflict across the country…So why has Joseph Kony not met the same fate? It’s simple…because there is no political or financial reason in doing so. Kony represents no political party or financial interests; he is simply responsible for a number of humanitarian atrocities…
The Lord’s Resistance Army, Kony’s enterprise, was formed in Uganda 25 years ago and is now based in Congo. The boy soldiers are encouraged to murder their parents and families, mutilating them in ways too horrific to describe. Survivors will be as badly scarred on the outside as the inside…
On April 20th 2012, when the sun goes down the world will cover the night. Posters, t-shirts, banners will be displayed throughout the western cultures in a massive attempt to make Kony famous. In the 5 days running up to April 20th, people are urged to sign the Pledge and to create more media coverage. Sample tweets have been emailed world-wide to encourage people to appeal to world leaders to arrest Kony and put an end to his tyranny…
The film has been an almost instant viral success, dominating Twitter worldwide and having one of the fastest ever take-offs on You Tube. The hash tag #stopkony has had hundreds of thousands of tweets, and millions of people now know something about Uganda and what is happening to children there…
It’s safe to say that this campaign has benefited on a huge scale from social networking sites, like Twitter. The Invisible Children organisation has been able to reach millions of people, in different countries, cultures and societies with just a push of a button. And what’s wrong with rallying together for a good cause? The Kony 2012 project was a hugely successful exploitation of social media and a testament to the power of an integrated social media network…
Social media was the mechanism that enabled Barack Obama to be elected. During the Virginia Tech massacres of April 2007, students were texting and ‘facebooking’ such messages as ‘Facebook saved my life’, giving it an agency of its own. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg should be sanctified. Jamal Albarghouti, who was a graduate student at Virginia Tech, recorded an onsite video during the shootings’ For all of that, he has become, on a Facebook description, a ‘citizen journalist’.

Social Media like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr have allowed wider access for charitable organisations such as Invisible Children and campaigns like Kony 2012. They can reach a worldwide audience and spread their beliefs quickly…It is useful for raising awareness and increasing public engagement.
However, the problem with social media is that it spreads like wild-fire. This only becomes an issue if the story is untrue. Rumours have been circulating that have led to criticisms for Kony 2012.
Michael Wilkerson discussed the criticisms, he said:
 It would be great to get rid of Kony.  He and his forces have left abductions and mass murder in their wake for over 20 years.
But let’s get two things straight:
Joseph Kony is not in Uganda and hasn’t been for six years;
The LRA now numbers at most in the hundreds, and while it is still causing immense suffering, it is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality.”…
And so, if Kony 2012 has over exaggerated the severity of Kony’s crimes, a lot of the people who have watched the video have been misled. This is a huge disadvantage when using social media. You cannot be sure whether the document you are reading, video you are watching or campaign you are joining is trustworthy…
The documentary has been criticised for not sticking to the BBC’s impartiality rule of journalism. No, it isn’t impartial. But impartiality is not going to motivate anyone into action.
Journalists have described it as partisan, tactless and very bold. Well, that it may be. But it has fulfilled its objectives in that its exponential popularity growth on the web has grabbed attention and now the world is aware of Joseph Kony…
Personally, from looking at Kony 2012 I’m suddenly aware of the power that social networking represents in our modern day society. It has taken such an incredibly influential role to the point that logging onto Facebook has become as normal and regular as eating and sleeping. What do I do when I wake up first thing in the morning? I check my phone, check Twitter, check Facebook… etc. All of that before anything else, it has become the “modern day” start of the day…
Social media has helped raise awareness for this campaign, but will it actually stop Kony? Probably not, but the hope is that that it motivates change. Not just in this situation but in all others… The LRA has damaged families, hurt quality of life and is affecting traditions. Exaggerated or not, it needs to end.
Yes, Joseph Kony is just one person and there are other criminals out there, but if social networking, can make such an impact and raise so much awareness then think what else can be achieved. What else is out there? So rather than thinking of Kony 2012 as a campaign based solely on the capture of one man, rather see it as an example of the change that can be achieved in a modern day world…with a little help from the internet.
A xo

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