Kony 2012: Hijacking of Social Media?


Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few days, you would by now have learned about Joseph Kony, a Ugandan warlord and alleged criminal whose story was the genesis for the most powerful and effective viral social media campaign since its evolution a few short years ago.

Last week, Kony’s alleged atrocities were known by the more well-informed world citizens, experts in international affairs and human rights and foreign correspondents, and now he is the subject of a YouTube video that was watched – at the time of writing this blog – by 74,401,259 people around the world.  That’s 74 MILLION people.

It is fair to say that the world has never experienced a media phenomenon like this, certainly not in my lifetime. What is fascinating to me is the obvious cross over that has occurred from the social media realm into traditional media.  The most obvious example of this was when Network Ten ceased their regularly scheduled programming at 8pm on 8 March 2012, in a prime time viewing slot, no doubt seeking to capitalise on the extraordinary interest in the story that had been generated digitally.  Ratings would suggest that this endeavour failed, as Network Ten came in 11th on that night at that time slot. Perhaps by then, Kony 2012 was already old news?

While the dust is still settling from this social media phenomenon, already important questions are being asked.

The most important relate to the credibility and trustworthiness of the source of this documentary – made by a group known as Invisible Children, the brainchild of American Jason Russell.  Prior to Kony 2012, few had heard of Russell or his organisation, and if his objective was to raise awareness, not just about Kony but also about his organisation, then, well, mission accomplished.

But media analysts are quite rightly asking just who are Invisible Children, what is their agenda, who is funding their operations, and most importantly, are they legit, and can we trust the content that they have distributed, with stunning success, throughout our world?

It sets a potentially disturbing trend, in that it is the content of social media that drives the audience, and it appears if that content is salacious/scandalous/shocking/moving enough, and if there is sufficient buzz created about it, that we all tune in and watch it without first scrutinising WHOM is sending out the message.

The dissemination of news and information via social media does to a large extent circumvent the gatekeepers that ordinarily make judgement calls about what news we read.  This to an extent has led to a democratisation of the news, and has made all of us journalists, as, armed with our mobile phones and built-in cameras with access to Twitter and Facebook, we can make the news as well as consume it.  The difference is there that on social media there is no Chief of Staff, no Editor or Sub-Editor deciding which stories are important, and, critically, which ones are true.

But I wonder, if we are so quick to absorb and trust digital content from sources that are unknown to us, doesn’t that make all of us vulnerable to being exploited by propogandists, advertisers, political lobbyists and others who seek to (and already do) use social media in order to persuade us to support a cause (such as bringing Kony to justice) to support a political candidate or myriad other shady objectives that are not so transparent. I wonder if perhaps we are not so far away from a time when flagrant abuse of social media for personal views and personal gain may lead to these channels also being screened, edited and censored prior to our viewing thereof.

For the moment, unless or until such controls exist, to borrow the age-old retail adage, it is an example of ‘buyer beware’, or in the case of social media ‘viewer beware’.

Yours in PR

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2 Comments »

  1. Marianne Jago-Bassingthwaighte Said:

    I think this blog covers some really important issues. My sense is that social media has mushroomed partly because there is so little public trust in traditional media and its owners and editors. I am not sure about the legitimacy of the Kony 2012 campaign. My instinct is that 70million knowing about his atrocities is a good thing, even if the msg about how to fix it seems to buy in US exceptionalism (dressed up in army clobber).

  2. Know SO Said:

    —-This Rockefeller funded Globalist propaganda
    piece is too obvious to even discuss in detail.

    The narrator comes off deeply creepy —-esp. in
    his manner as he exploits the children for emotional
    effect.

    MEANWHILE, the ‘concerned’ of Hollywood and media
    elite continue to BURY all consciousness of the
    yet unfolding RED China-KOREA Halocaust –even
    as they transfer our economy and reap TRILLIONS
    from Chinese slave labor.

    AGAIN ——that narrator’s a CREEP.


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