'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. Fredrick

    Kony was last seen hiding in Congo. He is already all but beaten. He's been on the run since 2004.

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

      "On the run" doesn't mean "caught." Or "dead." Either of which suits me.

      March 7, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Emily

    So what if they had to fabricate a couple facts to get their point across. There IS a Kony and he IS doing inhumane things to the people and children of Uganda. You cant tell me that the candidates running for presidency for our country do not fabricate their own ads and everything else they say ?? the difference is invisible people are actually getting something across and they are bringing people around the world together in the process.

    March 7, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Thank you.

      March 7, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bert Bigdongle

      Interesting flexible morals. Apparently its ok for certain people to lie, but not others. Its also ok to accuse Republican presidential candidates of lying but offer no evidence. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume you think it is BAD for Rush Limbaugh to disparage women, but OK for Bill Maher to do it. That's just the kind of hypocrit you are.

      March 7, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      Bert... If you don't believe politicians lie, you're either deluded, stupid or both.

      March 7, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy ©

      I think both Rush and Bill Maher are d-bags of the highest order.
      Anyone who would take either one of their rants as sancrosat probably doesn't care about what is going on in Uganda, anyway.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      I agree 90%, however they didn't fabricate facts. They simply showed the part of the story that emphasized what their goal was.

      March 8, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      " Its also ok to accuse Republican presidential candidates of lying but offer no evidence'

      ah so accusations only come from one side huh?

      March 8, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  3. monaLisa

    Fight the man, fight the madness! Kony MUST be STOPPED! The deaths of 66,000 children will not be in vain to a psychopath!

    March 7, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. saywhat

    well said.
    our politicos have been doing what you said for quite some time, the three GOP front runners have done nothing but this.

    March 7, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. chhooten

    I support IC and their KONY 2012 completely. Do the research, not just superficial searches. This is the first global movement to support a not-for-profit dedicated to improving the lives of millions of central Africans. This should not and cannot be forgotten or swept under the rug. Imagine how long the video would've been if they had stated ALL the facts and EVERY scenario since Kony started terrorizing people 20 years ago. It's so easy to be a critic and act like these atrocities aren't happening. I for one, along with millions WORLDWIDE stand with IC and their campaign.

    March 7, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ellie

    I am so shocked that this is not on the front page, but that some teen loses drivers license and some fisherman learning how to read is. What's wrong with you CNN?

    March 7, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. happy


    March 7, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jessica

    Yes, Invisible Children is like any other program one donates to, but that's not the point of this video. Kony and the LRA have been a terrifying force in Africa. I'm heading there next year for the Peace Corps. and there are an immense amount of refugees that have been fleeing for quite a while. Unfortunetly, the US doesn't have too much interest because there is no monetary value to saving the lives of others. Kony kidnaps children, drugs them up (primarily on meth etc.) so they become addicted and force them to kill from a very young age. A child learns from those around them. Its catastrophic. PEOPLE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE GRAVITY OF THIS SITUATION AND HOW LONG ITS BEEN GOING ON.
    THIS MAN NEEDS TO GO DOWN. However, he is being supported by others. He's only the head of the problem, his financiers are the neck.

    March 7, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenna

      Jessica, Kony has not been in Uganda since 2006. The LRA has fallen into about hundreds of followers, not thousands. It is horrific what he did and they can probably find him in the Congo somewhere. Obama sent troops over in 2011 for that purpose if memory serves. Look at any old news article on BBC or other reputable source and you'll see that I am right.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  9. Darlene

    One child...30,000 children? It's one too many. Money isn't the issue here...we all know you need at least $5.00 whenyou leave the house. Either in your pocket or in your tank. Every org needs money spends m

    March 7, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Darlene

    One child...30,000 children? It's one too many. Money isn't the issue here...we all know you need at least $5.00 when you leave the house. Either in your pocket or in your tank. Every org needs money spends money to make things happen. Don't be cynical to the cause be cynical to the root of the evil to this helpless people.

    March 7, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. CJ

    Awareness of the problem is great, but don't line this shady charity's pockets, arming the Ugandan military is not the answer, Kony is not in Uganda anymore, and the Ugandan Army is committing atrocities too, The entire region is corrupt, there is so much more going on, hopefully those of you who are outraged by this film will take the time to research what is going on in Africa

    March 7, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. kelsey 1ES

    I personally, was already aware of this atrocious massacre before this video went viral through my high school's global outreach club. We have made it our current goal to raise money and awareness for Invisible Children. I firmly believe that through donations and awareness we can stop this massacre. I am also proud to say that i will absolutely take part in the "Cover the Night" project that will help bring this man to justice. I am honestly so proud to say that my generation will be the one to put this man away for the rest of his life. It warms my heart to see the sheer amount of people that are dedicating their time, money, and efforts to stop this criminal. Invisible Children have already succeeded in raising enough awareness so that the United States government is taking action, but if we let the pressure slide, I fear that the issue will not be as important and will eventually fade into the wind like so many other humanitarian issues. There have been so many humanitarian problems through out history, from Hurricane Katrina to the famine in Russia in the early 20th century. But, unlike those horrors, the demise of one man can end it all and return peace to a war torn area. It is absolutely vital that we as a people, who are so blessed compared to these children, come together and stop this man.
    It is up to all of us to make a difference in this world, and it really is up to all of us to bring an end to the LRA and to Kony.

    March 7, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      I am excited to see what your generation does for the humanity Kelsey! Keep up the good work!

      March 7, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DrIllinois

    I'm more than happy to share and help people I know become aware or one of the Most Wanted Fugitives in the world. However, they won't be getting my money.

    March 7, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • cw

      Thanks for announcing that to the CNN message boards.

      March 8, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      That's okay, I'll donate twice

      March 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Vanna

    I don't care if they're a number or two off... fact is, children are being MURDERED. One child is murdered here and it makes the front page. THOUSANDS are being murdered there and we're supposed to sit back and say it's none of our business? You see a child from there being murdered and you're going to sit back and say, Oh that kid wasn't born here so I have better things to do. It's good American citizens are standing up and taking a stand for something. I don't care where we make the change, as long as we make it.

    March 7, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Josh

    This is more about getting Kony's name out there than it is the money. If you don't want to donate, don't. But you can help by telling your friends about it. It's pretty simple. If you don't back this movement I'm not sure you have a heart.

    March 7, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
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