KONY goes viral and questions rise
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 15, 2012 01:03
More than 78 million on YouTube alone have viewed Invisible Children’s KONY 2012 video since its release ten days ago. It has now reached over 100 million views on the Web.
The video takes viewers into Uganda and describes the devastation caused by Joseph Kony, a local warlord, who has been responsible for kidnapping children and forcing them to fight as a part of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
By comparison, between March 14 and March 21, 2011, Rebecca Black’s “Friday” music video became an online sensation with 30 million views on YouTube. The “Jack Sparrow” Saturday Night Live short from the Lonely Island comedy bit was viewed approximately 62 million times.
The ability to make and post videos for all the world to see is a relatively new innovation, thanks mainly to YouTube. And there are thousands of viral videos available online, though most videos go relatively unnoticed. It takes a lot of reposts, likes, mentions and shares on social networking sites to garner wide-spread attention.
According to an article published by the Huffington Post, it’s young people who have made the KONY 2012 video campaign the talk of the Web by sharing and commenting on the video and the issue it addresses.
In the video, Invisible Children CEO Jason Russell said Kony is still kidnapping Ugandan children and has a force of 30,000 children soldiers behind him.
These facts are not entirely true. Several news media outlets like the Huffington Post and NPR question the validity of the video. Yes, Kony has kidnapped children and made an army out of them. Over the past 25 years, he has abducted approximately 30,000 children, according the to Huffington Post, but his forces have decreased to several hundred, although no one is sure of the exact number because the army has been on the run since Kony was driven out of Uganda six years ago.
The video and campaign have been huge news on Twitter. Not only are young adults posting about the issue, but news organizations and celebrities are also getting in on the buzz. The attention to an issue that has been going on for too long is great, but with only 140 characters to tell the story, details and information often get lost in translation.
In the past year, social media has fueled revolutions in Egypt, Libya and Syria. While these countries placed restrictions on journalists entering the countries, citizens stepped up and began recording video and taking photos of riots, as well as recording blog entries to post on sites like YouTube, WordPress, Tumblr and Flickr. Facebook and Twitter were also used to organize protestors and relay information. Media organizations around the world picked up the story and used these eyewitness accounts as part of their own coverage on the conflicts.
But the limited number of space in a tweet typically means that the most shocking information is used to catch the reader’s attention. Tweets can be misleading if background information that completes the story, which is omitted. Users may also not receive accurate information if they choose not to click on accompanying links to read a full report on the topic at hand.
Social media users need to be scrutinous of the information they read. Credible reports on issues and violence around the world need to have additional content supporting them, like the videos and photos from the past year’s Arab Spring revolts, or they need to come from a reputable news source, especially concerning new issues.
It’s unlikely that the number of people who knew about Invisible Children or Joseph Kony before the video was over 100 million. To be an informed, knowledgeable contributor to any social network, it is important to do the necessary research on an issue or topic before blindly reposting, retweeting or simply all-around abusing the power that has come along with social networking.
Robyn Rudish-Laning is a graduate media technology student and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.