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This article was published on March 7, 2012

How an online documentary about a Ugandan warlord received over 7 million views in two days

How an online documentary about a Ugandan warlord received over 7 million views in two days

It’s not often that a half hour online documentary about conflict in an African country gets over 7 million views in the space of two days. But that is exactly what ‘Kony 2012’, a video produced by non-profit Invisible Children and directed by Jason Russell, has achieved.

On Vimeo, the video received 5.4 million views, while on YouTube, it’s closing in on 2 million, with no signs of slowing down. It’s hard to watch at times, telling the story of tens of thousands of Ugandan children who have been abducted into an army, forced to fight for a man who will do anything to stay in a position of power. Some estimates put the number of children who have been forced to fight for Joseph Kony as high as 66,000.

Leading the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony is at the top of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) list of war criminals. Since 1986, the LRA has continued to commit crimes against humanity including rape, murder, enslavement and pillaging. His history is a long list of anguish and death, which has for the most part, gone unnoticed by the world.

Invisible Children’s campaign, Kony 2012, is changing that. In the space of two days, the story has been catapulted to the forefront of several social networks, and has been noticed by millions of people. At the time of writing, there are 3 trending topics dedicated to the issue on Twitter, with hundreds of thousands of tweets containing a variety of keywords including Kony, Kony2012, Uganda and Invisible Children.

Invisible Children’s latest Facebook post about the campaign has received over 10,000 likes, over 1,000 shares, and about 800 comments. In fact, the campaign has seen such an overwhelming response that the site was crashing on the first day due to heavy traffic.

So what exactly is Invisible Children calling on people to do? Kony 2012 is an elaborate campaign which aims to make Kony famous. The campaign calls on getting 20 well-known celebrities on board, and having them bring more attention to the cause.

Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Zooey Deschanel and Stephen Fry are among the first to have taken to Twitter to spread the word. Kony 2012 is also encouraging people to contact 12 policy makers in the US who can make a difference to ensure that real change is brought about.

On April 20, the campaign is culminating offline. With hundreds of thousands of posters, stickers and flyers printed and available for purchase, Jason explains in the video what will take place. “We will meet at sundown and blanket every street in every city until the sun comes up. We will be smart and we will be thorough. The rest of the world will go to bed Friday night, and wake up to hundreds of thousands of posters demanding justice on every corner.”

He goes on, “The technology that has brought our planet together is allowing us to respond to the problems of our friends.”

Invisible Children is no stranger to successful social media campaigns. Between its Twitter and Facebook accounts, it has almost 1 million fans, and has a strong, active and engaging online presence.

That said, the campaign has taken on a huge task – not only to “make Kony famous”, but for that infamy to result in his arrest, in the space of just one year.

To find out more about the campaign, and how to get involved, check out the official Kony 2012 page, and if you’re not one of the millions of people who has already seen the documentary, check it out below: