Who is Joseph Kony? If you're one of the 55 million KONY 2012 YouTube views, the 2 million Facebook likes or the 2.3 million tweets using the #KONY2012 hashtag over the past week, you have at least an inkling. And in all likelihood, you probably didn’t before. Invisible Children, a California-based nonprofit, launched the KONY 2012 campaign this year to bring one of the world's worst war criminals, Joseph Kony, to justice. Although the campaign is as much embroiled in controversy as it is embraced, it is hard to argue it has accomplished its immediate goal: "Make Joseph Kony famous."
Invisible Children posted a nearly 30-minute video only four days ago that has taken the social media world by storm. The first goal of the nonprofit is to bring awareness to Kony, leader of the rebel group Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), who has been committing atrocities in Uganda and central Africa for more than 20 years. After watching the video, viewers are directed to the Invisible Children website to purchase t-shirts, bracelets and posters in support of the cause. Those who are really inspired can even purchase a "Get Everything Pack + Limited Edition Peace and Action Necklace" for $2,500. After gearing up, Invisible Children asks supporters to message "Culturemakers" like Tim Tebow and Lady GaGa and "Policymakers" such as Condoleezza Rice and Mitt Romney. Many celebrities have already been inspired to participate, with Ryan Seacrest tweeting, "Was going to sleep last night and saw ur tweets about#StopKony...watched in bed, was blown away. If u haven't seen yet."
Using this growing awareness, the nonprofit seeks to ensure that "U.S. military advisers support the Ugandan Army until Kony has been captured and the LRA has been completely disarmed," according to the Invisible Children website. The movement all culminates on April 20, with supporters taking TO the streets to plaster every surface with KONY 2012 posters to ensure the issue will no longer be ignored.
Meanwhile, a host of critics have popped up to draw attention to the nonprofit's questionable use of funds and two-star "Transparency and Accountability" rating on Charity Navigator. The organization has also received criticism for its alignment with the Ugandan Army, which itself is riddled with controversy.
This fastest growing viral video in history, according to online measurement firm Visible Measures in the Wall Street Journal, will "expire" on December 31, 2012. Before that time, will KONY 2012 overcome its criticisms and turn this immense awareness into advocacy that, ultimately, becomes action? Will it achieve its end goal of bringing Kony to justice? Invisible Children must move quickly to activate this attentive base because in today's social media world, Kony's 15 minutes of fame will soon be up.
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