'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. D

    @Sara: Yeah, give them the technology, so they can turn around and screw us up in the ass like the Middle East, right? Were you born for that?? We HELPED out Osama bin Laden. Gave them weapons, taught them how to use them, how to strategize, the technology, etc. I'm sure you can guess what happened years after that. Africans have the aid, not the will. As far as Somalians, effen A... the very same people the US was trying to help, were attacking the US troops, so... what's your point?

    March 8, 2012 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
    • D

      Ridiculous! They aren't going to give them jets and missiles! It's the fear you are displaying that is destroying this world.

      March 8, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  2. Rob

    why a 100 soldiers? Why not just a sniper and a spotter? it won't take bullets from 100 guns to kill the guy, just one bullet from one gun....

    March 8, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • USMC4Ever

      Only to cover more ground, 50 snipers, 50 spotters. Scattered, Smothered, Covered, Dead! LOL

      March 8, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
    • 6Cobra

      This isn't a movie, man. Where should the sniper physically go to find Kony in some of the densest and most rugged jungle terrain on earth? And please don't rely on the old trope that the government "knows" where he is, because I assure you, they don't.

      March 8, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Todd in DC

      Even if we did know, that knowledge would change day to day. I can't believe that the SEAL team that took out bin Ladin was the only SEAL team in the area.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • latuya83

      Rob please put down your video game controller, stop playing Call of Duty and step into the real world please.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  3. Scott Nagle

    I can't believe how little importance CNN regards this issue. You'd rather show the newest iPad than a genocide that we can have some impact to stop. Shame.

    March 8, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Tyler

      The blame lies in CNN's audience, not CNN itself.

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

      You say this on a article on the CNN website! What the hell do you want? I don't see this subject even mentioned on other news sites.

      March 8, 2012 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Todd in DC

      Besides, child soldiers need iPads too, you know.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • dpcfoh

      I found this story on the front page of CNN, it seems like their placement of the story is working. They did their job in getting readers to click on the story (including you). Did you expect a personal phone call from CNN telling you about the story?

      March 8, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. Andrew

    Kony 2012 – send money to use kids, to kill kids, to save kids.

    Now that's a slogan naive westerners can stand behind!

    March 8, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • tom landry

      ........what a tool

      March 8, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  5. ironage

    Left wing drivel.

    March 8, 2012 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
    • 6Cobra

      Yeah, just another examle of Obama's war on good, God-fearing Christians like Joseph Kony, right Rush?

      March 8, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • D

      If caring about humanity is "left-wing drivel", then I'm a hard-core filthy, liberal. Man, you make the right seem like such HORRIBLE people.

      March 8, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • tom landry

      just a dumb tool throwing around the word "liberal". does it give you a hard on to call folks by their political stance? to act like they are not human beings? You must have very little friends and no life. Go take a walk or something.. you need to stop sniffing romneys underwear

      March 8, 2012 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • dpcfoh

      What does politics have to do with this story? I thought that all people were supposed to care about their fellow humans regardless of race, religion, political belief or gender. Are you saying that right wing people don't care about this issue?

      March 8, 2012 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • dpcfoh

      So, what does politics have to do with this story? I thought that all people were supposed to care about their fellow humans regardless of race, religion, political belief or gender. Are you saying that right wing people don't care about this issue?

      March 8, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  6. Ben

    I'd be willing to bet there are dozens of warlords all over Africa that are just like Kony. People only care about this one guy because some hipsters watched a video from their iphones, and now they call themselves humanitarians. What a joke

    March 8, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • 6Cobra

      There are more than dozens, but Kony really is possibly the worst.

      March 8, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • ChelleShock

      While I have no doubt there are others, Kony is considered in the top 10 most wanted people in the world for his crimes against humanity.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      I guess my question is, why now? this stuff has been going on for decades, and suddenly people care because of a video. Were people really too naive to see this was happening before now? Not to take anything away from the effort of the org or downplay the issue, but someone will gladly take over Konys duties once he is dead and gone. It's just the sad state of the world these days

      March 8, 2012 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • dpcfoh

      I guess my question is, why NOT now? It's better now than never. If it works now to remove him, then their campaign was a success. What would be the problem with that? So, maybe earlier attempts to get peoples attention didn't work, but it did this time. Good for them.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  7. Nick

    Its a sad thing when people take a great opportunity to help the world and make it sound like the original helpers are out to scam you. If you are at all swayed by the tone of this article (or the irresponsible link to an article lying about the IC organization), please google "Invisible Children critic response." They've met every single accusation with clear answers and proof and laid everything out in the open. They're a nonprofit – legally they had to, and theyve never shyed away from that. I applaud CNN for running this story, but I say shame on them for promoting lies of another blog who is proven to be incorrect.

    March 8, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  8. Frank

    What's good for the goose, is good for the gander. If we want to change the way in which this World has been evolving up until now, we have to wake up and smell the GARBAGE. Start cleaning up the biggest garbage first, then systematically and consequently work your way down. What's good for Saddam Hussein and Muamar Kadhaffi, is good for Joseph Kony.

    March 8, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  9. rubes

    this is stupid. went to the tracker and these clowns sound like roadside bandits more than anything. now i am informed and able to move on. nothing to see here.

    March 8, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  10. Nick

    thank you! I get so sick of people throwing around lies (and CNN linking to them) without verifying the truth. Does nothing but hurt people.

    March 8, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • bootyism

      Watching a 30-minute video does not make one a social activist. Actual Peace Corp volunteers would probably frown upon that.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      So what... Who wants to be an activists. I just want a different world and I am glad someone is focused on all the evil out there

      March 9, 2012 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
  11. Bud

    Maybe you've never heard this. "If not me, who? And, if not now, when?" What the US needs is an independent "Veteran's Army." Made up of seasoned vets that "aren't finished yet." This army could be used in place of Federal troops and sent places governmant troops couldn't go. And, they would go with the experience to get the job done, since no politicians would have any say over them.

    March 8, 2012 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • bootyism

      If you're not part of any government, who pays for that? Donations? Then you're a mercenary group. Self-financed? Good luck with that.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ralph Alley

    I was never awhere of this monster xplitive not being used because he dosnt deserve it but I will tell as many people about koney as I can thank you for going to the trouble of making this video maybe some day the children of the world will be safe from him and anyone else like him.

    March 8, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  13. Teabaggots = America's Fascist-Corpocratic Regime's Brownshirts

    Keep in mind that the Lord's Resistance Army, which CNN correctly states is "notorious for abducting, raping and maiming its victims", is the same organization that Rush Limbaugh came out in support of several months ago, solely because they profess to be Christian and because Obama opposed them. Limbaugh sided with a guerrilla army that ra pes/tortures/dismembers people alive, over the American president, because the American president passed a half-as sed "compromise" health care bill. He wants to see innocent African women and children get tortured, ra ped, and slaughtered because Obama endorsed a half-measure bill that MAY affect his rich golf buddies' bottom lines by half-a-percent. And the fascist, corporate-run media didn't say a word.

    March 8, 2012 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • dpcfoh

      If Obama said something nice about Rush, Rush would dispute it just because Obama said it.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  14. ILL WILL

    Sad, no one seems to care about their fellow man anymore unless they can profit from it.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  15. NorCalMojo

    They need to change that logo. It looks like they're endorsing him for president.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • oneSTARman

      That's Only because there are so many BLOODTHIRSTY – HEARTLESS – MONSTERS in Political Ads these Days it just seems like part of the SHOW

      March 8, 2012 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
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