Kony 2012:
The power of Media Activism

The organisation Invisible Children was founded in 2004 by three filmmakers Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey and Lauren Poole to raise awareness and bring to justice Kony who was the leader of the Lords Resistance Army. Invisible Children released a video about Kony in 2012 that went viral. Kony was presented as a War Lord who kidnapped children for the purposes of turning them into child soldiers to fight and oppose the government’s armed forces. In 2005, a year after Invisible Children was formed Kony became the ICC’s Most Wanted man.

At first, the US government were reluctant to get involved as it was not considered by them to be an important enough issue in their foreign policy. The video’s viral success was due to social media and generated a lot of support from Celebrities and teenagers mainly females who where from White Middle Class backgrounds according to Washington Post.

It was only because of the level of awareness raised by the video that the government acted and deployed 100 military advisers to assist the Ugandan army in capturing Kony. This campaign was clearly successful in getting the U.S government to notice that Kony had become a problem in Uganda, which fitted into the governments agenda to increase their presence in Africa.

Questions were raised on the legitimacy of the claims presented and whether Kony was alive and still abducting children. Also people begun to question how the money raised from the donations and campaigning was being spent. This scrutiny led the company being dissolved in 2015.

In terms of social media, the video was a triumph in raising awareness of Kony and the situation in Uganda. The initial view target of the video was 500,000 views in a year. After just 36 hours, the video had already reached 1,000,000. To date, it has over 100,000,000 views. Furthermore, the video was a success mainly because of Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. The available technology combined with the level of following, the youth in particular, have to these websites were the main reasons for the video going viral.

Shortly after the initial praise the video received, people started to query the journalistic integrity of the video because of the absence of any kind of sources or references and the overuse of emotional language to appeal to the audience on a personal level rather than presenting factual information.

However, the success in raising awareness of the video was ultimately what brought about Invisible Children’s downfall. The charity was unprepared for the amount of traffic coming through to their website which raised suspicions. We live in a time where people have the ability to find information on almost anyone and anything. Although we feel Invisible Children’s were genuine, the manner in which they campaigned attracted some unwanted attention to the charity. Once people began to investigate the finances and the information used to promote this cause, it soon came to light that some of the information had been made up, manipulated and misrepresented in order to tie in with the charity’s agenda rather than providing truthful and factual data. In addition, only a small percentage of the money was actually used to improve the situation in areas where Kony operated. Most of the money was used within the charity rather than for the cause in which the charity was founded.

To sum up, the participation of youth in the Kony 2012 campaign is one of the best examples of the power of social media in global affairs. It helped to shine light on an ongoing series of atrocities that was going almost unnoticed and, at first, the majority of people who had seen the video were touched by it and wanted to help catch Kony.

The important lesson to be learned here is to never underestimate the power of social media and the change it can bring about. Despite Kony never being brought to justice and the eventual closure of Invisible Children, the campaign was able to alter mindsets, influence Government policy and show what can be achieved via social media.


Kony 2012 Video

Move 2012

Why did Invisible Children Dissolve?

Kony 2012: whats the real story?

Samuel Alebioshu, Great Britain

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