If you’ve seen people commenting with the words “KONY 2012″ over the last few days on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, then you already know something is in the process of going viral. But what exactly is it and who, or what, is Kony?
KONY 2012 is part of a unique social media campaign created by Invisible Children about Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda. Kony and the LRA have used systematic and brutal violence in their quest to create a theocratic state in East Africa. However, what really has people riled up is Kony’s use of child soldiers in his army. An estimated 66,000 children have been abducted by the LRA and forced to fight, sometimes against their own families and communities. The remarkable 30 minute video produced by Invisible Children is designed to raise awareness about Joseph Kony’s crimes and drive a movement to bring him to justice:
The campaign has attracted overwhelming support, gaining over 32 million views alone on YouTube since it was posted on March 5 and mass distribution on every social media platform. However, the campaign also demonstrates that social media can sometimes act as a double-edged sword. Invisible Children has attracted criticism that questions the motives of the organization as well as their financial practices. The criticism has been harsh enough that Invisible Children sent a representative to face the formidable users on Reddit, an influential online social news aggregator, to defend their campaign and their organizational practices.
This certainly isn’t the first time an aid group has come under heavy criticism for its operational practices and it won’t be the last. Will KONY 2012 end up being an effective campaign? It’s too early to tell as of yet, but in the end it will make for an interesting case study on how to use social media effectively as well as avoiding the pitfalls that may come along with it.