How Kony 2012 Went Viral

A campaign and an NGO became the talk of the Internet in just one week.

By: /
9 March, 2012

If you didn’t know who Joseph Kony was before this week, there’s a good chance you know about him now — which is just what the San Diego-based NGO Invisible Children hoped its video, Kony 2012, would do. Its aim was “to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice,”  But in the process, it also brought a lot of attention to Invisible Children itself, and not everybody liked what they saw. The NGO was criticized for its finances, its facts, and its mission.

Below is a brief timeline of how Invisible Children and its campaign to raise awareness of a Ugandan warlord  became the talk of the Internet in just one week.

February 20

The Kony 2012 video is first posted to Vimeo.

March 5

The Kony 2012 video is posted to YouTube. Invisible Children tweets that it gets 800,000 hits in the first 24 hours.

March 6

Kony 2012 starts to make waves on Twitter. “Kony” and “#KONY2012” account for close to four percent of all tweets. The Invisible Children website is shut down for a quick redesign. Users are directed to Vimeo to watch the video until the site is back up.

March 7

Invisible Children sends a letter to U.S. President Obama urging him to redouble U.S. support for Uganda to catch Kony. Meanwhile, criticismof thecampaign and theorganization grows. A photo of the filmmakers brandishing AK-47s and a RPG launcher with members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army makes its way around the Internet. Critics quickly jump on the photo, although few mention that it was taken in 2008. The photographer who took the shot responds by filling in some of the context.

March 8

Invisible Children responds to their critics with a new section on their website.