'Stop Kony' video goes viral, puts spotlight on Ugandan warlord
A screengrab from the Kony 2012 campaign.
March 7th, 2012
04:04 PM ET

'Stop Kony' video goes viral, puts spotlight on Ugandan warlord

A half-hour documentary about a Ugandan warlord is one of the  hottest videos on the Web today, reposted several million times on various social networking sites.

The San Diego-based nonprofit Invisible Children produced the film. Their goal was to make Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, a household name. The LRA is notorious for abducting, raping and maiming its victims. They're particularly infamous for hacking off the ears and lips of their victims and recruiting child soldiers. The LRA's goal is to overthrow the Ugandan government. Kony is on the loose.

By Thursday, a video of the documentary has been viewed on YouTube at least 32 million times. There are countless tweets about it. Even Oprah appears to be a follower. The talk show queen had Invisible Children representatives on her show awhile back. The group tweeted her about the documentary, and she appears to have responded: "Thanks tweeps for sending me info about ending #LRAviolence. I am aware. Have supported with $'s and voice and will not stop. #KONY2012."

But several observers are urging caution, saying that Invisible Children has manipulated facts in the past and advised viewers to watch the documentary with that in mind.

The film follows the alleged former Ugandan child soldier and calls for action against Kony.

In October, President Barack Obama announced that he would send 100 U.S. troops to Africa to help hunt down Kony. International aid convoys and nongovernment organizations operating in the region have been threatened by the Lord's Resistance Army, according to numerous reports. Human Rights Watch, in a letter released in May, urged the U.S. government to step up its effort to protect people from the group.

Noelle Jouglet, Invisible Children's spokeswoman, said the group used "2012" to attract more initial online attention, suspecting people would click on that because there's high interest in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.

Invisible Children's tech-savvy team sent a link to the documentary to groups that have huge fan bases, she said. Group followers shared the link on Facebook, Tmblr and Twitter. The Harry Potter Alliance and the hacker collective Anonymous helped spread the word, she said.

Invisible Children sent Twitter messages about the documentary to 20 celebrities, including Bono, Angelina Jolie, Jay Z, Ryan Seacrest and Rihanna. Many of the tweets about the film appear to be from fans who follow those celebrities.

Jouglet told CNN that any money generated from the film will go to Invisible Children, which builds schools in Uganda. Money will also go to support a high-frequency radio station that Invisible Children operates, which broadcasts anti-LRA messages to fighters urging them to defect. CNN is unable to immediately verify this information or any of Invisible Children's activities in the Congo.

Over the past decade, Invisible Children has been one of the most influential advocacy groups, putting pressure on the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, imploring the U.S. government to take a side in the fight between the LRA and the Ugandan government, according to a November 11, 2011, Foreign Affairs story linked out in a Washington Post story Wednesday.

The Foreign Affairs story says Invisible Children and other advocacy groups "have manipulated facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA's use of innocent children as soldiers."

"They rarely refer to the Ugandan atrocities or those of Sudan's People's Liberation Army, such as attacks against civilians or looting of civilian homes and businesses, or the complicated regional politics fueling the conflict."

Jouglet responded to the criticism saying that the group "had" to "simplify" events in the documentary to make it easier for their targeted audience - young people and the wider population - to pay attention and understand.

The group also posted on its Tumblr account an explanation of its mission in Africa, a breakdown of how it spends money and details of its strategy to facilitate the capture of Kony.

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Filed under: Uganda
soundoff (279 Responses)
  1. Jon

    So that's why Kony was trending. Good. The more people know about that horror story, the better.

    March 7, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kim

    "Their (Invisible Children) goal was" is past tense...this isn't past tense. Their goal IS and IS working. I can't believe the way this article WAS written. I am a supporter of CNN and find it ingratiating that this report only focused on the controversy of an organization trying to do good rather than the actual positive influence it will have on people realizing that they can be part of a public movement trying to save children.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • mark

      Kim you have to look at who owns and runs CNN. It's all filtered. I came here to CNN to see how they would respond to this unprecedented movement. I'm not surprised by their reaction. Did Ashley Frantz write a different article only to be altered by her editor? And if see stood here ground on a different version of her article would CNN print it? Would you stand up for humanity or stay invisible and filtered for the security of your job. Humanity is at this very moment making history.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • VinceRN

      With you 100%, but isn't this article just typical of how the media in general has treated this issue for almost three decades? Occasionally a celebrity gets involved, a movie gets made, every now and then you get an error filled, apathetic report on the news, but mostly it's just ignored.

      March 7, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Makena

    Having met someone from Africa that watched her parents killed and village destroyed by Kony and the LRA I know that the Kony threat is real. I also know that Invisible Children did something to help change this woman's life. Through a scholarship program that Invisible Children funds she was able to go to secondary school in Africa and college to become a nurse. I will not believe the lies about this great organization because I have first hand proof of the good that it has done.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mark

    Jason Russell's ability to bring the issues of crimes against humanity to the doorsteps, computer monitors, water coolers, local pubs and into the streets with the principles of non-violation is astonishing. Invisible Children is the catalyst if you will, that is currently sending shock-waves through every world wide government, major corporations, the IMF, World Bank etc... that we as humans are no longer invisible. No longer quite. Rather organizing like never before.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. brittany

    It's great that people are noticing. But joseph Kony has been a problem for about a decade. The problem with a lot of people is we don't watch the news, vote, or care about anything until its trending on twitter. People should watch the news more often and not depend on twitter to tell us about the world. If we can find out that snooki is pregnant before she announces it, then certainly we can hear about Ugandan terrorists. We have first amendment rights but only use it to spread ignorance. We need to take accountability and not be internet politicians but actually take a stance.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roxanne

      Thats why we are all getting the word out and actually using our resources that we have today that we didnt have 10, 20 years ago! I hope it keeps going til he is caught as well as all the other bad people that have been behind him! Trust in God and believe that things can change only if people really want them to.

      March 7, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • dpcfoh

      Brittany, it's true more people should pay attention to the news. But, that said, these days if it takes Twitter, of FB to get the news out, then great, get the new out anyway you can. It all works together. There isn't one best source for news, not one source can give you all the news you need all the time.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  6. There'sHope

    I did not know who Kony was 35 minutes ago I do now!

    March 7, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. This_blank

    Cool oprah is on it now i dont have to worry i can move on to something else

    March 7, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |

    watch. learn. share.
    The more people to know, the better.

    March 7, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. This_blank

    Konys got some great hot dogs love me some sour krout

    March 7, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. St

    This should be a headline, front page!

    March 7, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jorge P


    March 7, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • daci

      i would do kony all night long(;

      March 12, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. J. Baer

    I called CNN this morning and was told by a young skeptical sounding women that CNN was already aware of the story and video.

    I briefly explained that this whole situation may be much bigger than Joseph Kony, but changing how the people see and utilize social networks to control governments.

    In the light of many gatherings and protests calling for political transparency , this event may be a key to what is to come.

    Political biased news networks may be intimidated because they may fall victims to the greatest part of transperancy between the people and current events.

    Now that people see each other and use these social tools to communicate greater ideas based on current events and needs of the citizens of the world, we can take stand on issues that truly matter that really effect our future, not who gets voted off the popular reality talent show tonight,. We know now what we are capable and by what means we are able, it is now up to us to shape a better future, starting with the success of this project.

    Perhaps we are not to know everything in fear that too much information of what is really going on in the world could endanger the power of those in charge. Or could too much knowledge posibly endanger the safety of citizens, perhaps cause panic or chaos?

    Who cares that Invisible Children asks for donations just as any other non-profit organazation. It's obvious they are more involved in the cause. When Russell promises Jacob that he will do everything to stop this bad man after hearing how Kony murdered this young boys brother in cold blood; Friends, that is all the proof I need that this is a real cause and undoubtedly something must be done.

    March 7, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Venika

      Absolutely agree. I have posted part of your comment on my Facebook so that others can understand what this could mean!

      March 7, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. leeintulsa

    i work with a guy from uganda. a while back, mother jones had a story on kony, and i asked sam about it. he kind of blew it off.. i wonder if he's in league with kony.. doesn't seem the type – nice enough, overweight, christian, preachy.. maybe that culture sees it in a more common light.. i don't know. sam left uganda to live here.. maybe i should get to know that guy better..

    March 7, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mom

    Kony is one small piece of the landscape. I appreciate the enthusiasm that has taken the cause but what needs to be understood is that another monster will rise up and replace Kony because the world view of the land is primed for it. Until human life, ALL human life is held sacred- there will be no change in this affected culture or the continent or the world. The issue goes beyond Kony.

    March 7, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      Yes, this issue far reaches Kony's influence but who is to say that one of the millions of people that have joined this movement isn't the person that comes up with a solution to solve many injustices against humanity or that one of the many isn't a child of 14 that has now been encouraged to stand for something other than what to wear to a football game. ANY MOVEMENT that encourages people to end the injustices to children and humanity is one small step but at least it is a step to showing people that this world isn't as big and people aren't as different as they might think. Any action to create a healthy fruitful life for a child is worth taking.

      March 7, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Andrew

    DONT WORRY! If CNN chooses to keep this hidden article as their attempt at coverage. APRIL 20th will open their eyes!! And make it a front page story!

    March 7, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
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