If you’re following social media (or digging deeper in traditional media) you’ve probably come across “Kony 2012” or #stopkony – the campaign’s video has already gotten more than 50 million views since it started 2 weeks ago – although it has gone incredibly viral only the last couple of days as you can see:

Vimeo Stats for Kony 2012 - from 10 views to 50k to 2.7million in 3 days

YouTube shows how viral Kony 2012 went

Ok my analytical geekness caught me here for a second, so back to the topic.

If you haven’t watched the video, watch it. Give it 5 minutes afterwards and come back here with your opinion on it – but be warned: the video is 29minutes long.

KONY 2012 from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo.

So what do you think? If you haven’t had the time to watch the video: it’s the central piece of a campaign to make one man famous all over the world. A man called Joseph Kony, known to have abducted at least 30,000 children in Uganda over the last 25 years, turning them into child soldiers amongst other horrible things. Invisible Children is the American NGO behind this campaign and her goal is to create a movement to stop Joseph Kony – in fact the NGO has been operating over the last 9 years.

INVISIBLE CHILDREN USES FILM, CREATIVITY AND SOCIAL ACTION TO END THE USE OF CHILD SOLDIERS IN JOSEPH KONY’S REBEL WAR AND RESTORE LRA-AFFECTED COMMUNITIES IN CENTRAL AFRICA TO PEACE AND PROSPERITY.

Sounds like a great campaign making use of the power of the social web, doesn’t it?

Well, what if I tell you there’s been an increasing amount of criticism. Criticism on the use and transparency of Invisible Children’s funding. Criticism from local NGOs and people in Uganda. Criticism on the realistic impact of the campaign. Criticism on the hollywood-style documentary that lacks journalistic principles and exploits people’s emotions. Criticism that Joseph Kony is no longer in Uganda at all actually. Criticism that this is yet another naive attempt of white man (Americans trying to gain influence over another country in a colonial style denying the extremely complex situation).

This blog is entirely devoted to highlighting doubt-worthy aspects: http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/
Also the Guardian has set up a continuously updated investigation on the justification of critiques.
Invisible Children themselves have responded to critiques with an open statement here.

So what are we supposed to think and do?

Does raising awareness for a topic that’s not given attention by media justify any method?
Is it ok that the symbol of the campaign is not the largest issue anymore but helps spreading awareness?

But even more so, how do I, how do we as individuals and groups react?
Do you feel a bit insecure what to think now? Well, you’re not alone.

Does it make you a naive person if you just shared the video because it succeeded in appealing to your emotions?
Does it make you a “better” person if you didn’t share it because of all the criticism around it?
How could you have known all this?
Are you suposed to spend hours digging into the background details?
Are you supposed to stop everything you do and go to Africa to make a difference? Would this be courageous, naive or stupid?
Are you supposed to realize you’ll never be able to understand the complexity? Do people only pretend certain things are complex to stop people from asking for, thinking about, or simply putting a solution in place?

To be honest, I haven’t made up my mind yet. There’s never been a clear “black” and “white” scenario in human history but always some grey zone in between. Yet this is exactly what the Kony campaign does: painting it black & white. Kony is the bad guy and if he’s removed all will be good. With the social web spreading ideas, opinions, facts – whether they be true or not – lightning fast, it becomes increasingly difficult to trust. Social proof is meant to establish trust but we know that erring is human. And the grey zone keeps growing.

At the same time, the power to dig really deep into vast amounts of information has never been easier. It’s at your finger tips, a google search away. But will as fast as wrong claims spread, correcting claims spread equally fast? Social has the ability to trigger amazing movements – but at the same time also to manipulate and trigger dangerous group behavior.

So I’m not gonna tell you what you should think about Kony 2012 but I think that there’s –

A new responsibility

Let’s not re-share just because it’s so easy to click, just because everyone is doing it, just because you want to be the 1st one amongst your friends – and most importantly: let’s not re-share stuff we haven’t even read, watched or listened to.

A new responsibility is evolving for everyone making use of the social web.

I agree with Musa Okwanga (born in Uganda) who says: “Stop Kony, yes. But don’t stop asking questions”.
Don’t stop asking questions.
And I’d like to add: Do something – but reflect on it.

So did you share the video? What did you think of it? What do you think after reading the criticism?

 

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