'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. GBG

    Wait...an extremist CHRISTIAN group? Oh come now, christians don't act this way.... Hmm..wonder what their next argument will be against Muslim extremist?

    March 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. scared for future

    Sorry folks, but I'm a born skeptic. Something isn't right with this charity. Think about the facts. Eighty percent of child soldiers have been returned. Joseph Kony is on the lam, odds are he's not even in Uganda. American soldiers are already there, training Ugandan forces. Where is the money going exactly? Is it going to paying the soldiers who are doing the training (obviously not, that's our tax dollars). Is it going to these radio communications? If so, what are radio communications being used for? If Kony has "changed his course" as the video claims he's obviously not abducting children out in the open, so how is the radio system being used?

    I also have to wonder what happens if for some reason we catch Kony. Where does the money go then? They say to building schools but they showed one (brief) exterior shot of a Ugandan school. If 80% of children have been freed, wouldn't it make more sense to invest in schools for thousands of children rather than the pursuit of one man? Rumor has it that 30% of this organization's funds actually go toward the cause while its founders each rack in close to six-figure salaries. If all this money (70%) is going toward camera equipment and technology, what are we really paying for?

    March 8, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Skcubrats

      Just wondering where or who the child soldiers were returned to? Such a careless comment.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Feather Williams

    Thank You so much for airing this story, I was so moved by it yesterday on Facebook. I am 32 years old...this is my generation...this my time in history and together we can stop this. Now that I know what is going on..I can never again pretend that I don't.

    March 8, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Levi

      quiet you! signed oongaboonga click click

      March 8, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • bootyism

      It's interesting that Invisible Child spends more money from their donations on salaries, travel, film production, etc than it does on actually helping the children. Also important to note that the Ugandan government is also wrought with corruption themselves and attempting to get rid of Kony will not end the problem.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • donkeyhodey

      Sending money to a nonprofit that wants to muck things up by dousing the flames with fuel is not helping. Want to help? Really want to help? Send your money to nonprofits that are putting more than 31% toward rebuilding the region’s medical and educational infrastructure, so that former child soldiers have something worth coming home to.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jae


      March 8, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mike hunt

    HIPSTERS!!! THIS IS A SCAM! No one even knows if Kony is still alive because he hasnt done anyting since 2006. The current Uganda army is almost just as bad, and this Invisible Children group only spends about 20% of the money they get on Uganda. The rest go to t-shirts, posters, being hip, and the guy who made this video. Google it!!

    March 8, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blondie

      And American christian groups back a government that will execute you if you are gay. The christians like that. They can't get it passed in law in the US, so they spread their viral christ crap in illiterate Africa where they will.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike hunt

      @Blondie are you referring to muslims? because i dont know any christian group that backs any muslim government or country. wow, your propaghanda and lies are as bad as this Kony video.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • slobro

      If they donate less than 70-80% then they are a scam.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • bootyism

      @ Mike Hunt, really? You don't think the U.S. backs Saudi Arabia? Kuwait? Last I checked Uganda's population is 84% Christian. I think you, Mike Hunt, need to brush up on your FACTS before coming on to this thread.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      What is this, 1967?

      March 8, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      The LRA is a christian extremist group, the notion that we back Uganda's government b/c they are christian is absurd. Futhermore this is more pop culture activism without any real knowledge, a lot of that seems to be going on in the past few months. The LRA is no different than any numerous warring factions in Uganda, Congo(both of them), or Sudan, and this includes the governments of those countries. Kony is a bad person (if hes still alive) doing terrible things that should stop but hunting him down for other organizations is no solution to the problem. Also what kind of charity doesn't publish what they are spending their money on other than is what is legally required which is an absurd overhead?

      March 8, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andurill

      I'm a sucker for a good cause but seeing this person's name all over the place almost seems like brainwashing. Please send money.

      March 8, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. asdf

    Wow CNN – I've said some nasty things about your brand of journalism (or lack thereof), but it seems that whoever wrote this piece actually did some research!

    March 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mary

    I have been upset about this for years.. Wondering how it is going ignored.. Amazed that it goes ignored, while other things are made important around the world.
    Wondering why.. One country and its war and horrors matters when this horrendous thing, goes on and on. Ignored..
    Now finally it is noticed .

    March 8, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • bootyism

      No thanks to you.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • mary

      Oh did I not personally get hold of you and talk to you about it?
      Sorry.. My bad..I am a total fail. then.. 🙁

      March 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Common sense

    Yea… having been left in Africa we would be a lot better off right … right?

    March 8, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dott

      I sometime wonder if people who's ancestors were brought to this country against their will ever think "where would I be if slavery never existed in the USA? Most likely they would not exist having been starved or slaughtered by another tribe. Even if life sometimes treats them not so kindly – they should be glad that they are here and not over there. They are born Americans and not Africans.

      March 8, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. slobro

    Do they donate more than 80%? If not then they are a scam.

    March 8, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Vic

    Here is my question. Someone can get close enough to take videos and pictures of this guy (and I mean high quality). But, they can't get close enough to him to put a bullet in his head. Just makes you wonder.

    March 8, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Demihuman

    The real problem here is Money, Greed and Power. This is what's internal to ALL "evil." Kony's reasons are the same. So yes – Kony deserves to die – but killing him wont' do anything. Just lets the guy who's next in line come into power. So yes by all means kill Kony. But don't give me this sugary video with a soundtrack to cue inner feelings of inspiration and montages of ppl actively putting up posters like that's ever done anything. BTW – where did you get all that money for the posters, shirts, pins, pens, this video, and your trips to Africa? Fight for the right reasons – pull it by the roots – don't just cut the grass...

    March 8, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Demihuman

    LOL! Opera's a follower? What the heck?! Opera can BUY Uganda – and reconstruct EVERYTHING! Why is she just "following" this? That's just fake and pretentious. If you have the power to do something – then do it! Opera -50 points in my book.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Demihuman

    Oh – one good thing will come out of this. The entertainment we will get by looking at those sad African kids' faces when they realize this white guy couldn't really do shhieet for them. And the let down for MOST of them will drive them towards hatred and faithless. Evil begets evil my friends.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Judith Mayer

    Invisible Children is an upstanding organization. CNN should have reviewed the facts by checking out Tumbir before casting dispersions on this organization. It's amazing what this group of 20-something year olds has done in the past 5 years. Why is so hard to believe that these young people are changing the world? Hats off to this generation for dreaming big and persevering to help children, displaced refugees, communities and countries far away from the U.S.........

    March 8, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ana

    I am all about Kony 2012 .. In my state on 4/20/2012 i will be at my local park putting up posters and wearing my t shirt .. iam all about having this guy arrrested or killed because he deserves it .. iam pretty sure that if any american child would have to be put through this it would be all over the news.. and how come Kony has been doing this for 20+ years but no one cares about it. i just wish sometimes that people would have a heart !! ):

    March 8, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. christian dames

    you people are stupid if u dont think it isnt a big deal and you want to just ignore it. if it were your children would you want people ignoring your cries for help?

    March 8, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
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