#Kony2012 and “Cover the Night” Global Campaign Fall Flat in the End

Apr 20, 2012
5:44 pm

Remember #Kony2012? It was only last month, just about 7 weeks ago, that most viral video in the history of the Internet had the online world talking and buzzing.

The goal of the campaign was to establish a Cover the Night global event for April 20. April 20 is now upon us, and right now, the campaign has fallen flat. For example, Invisible Children's Call to Action has gotten only 20,000 views (when compared to the 100+ million views the first video received).

This report out of Australia said that only 25 people showed up at Martin Place in Sydney, even though 18,700 people had said on Facebook that they would attend the event.

On Twitter, the #Kony2012 search for tonight is no way as active as to when the initial video came out. You see more of these tweets than the hundreds and thousands of tweets Invisible Children was promising:

One interesting development was this report by Al Jazeera English, where Uganda bloggers are trying to offer a more local and authentic perspective to the issues in Central Africa:

And that is the problem with the campaign. It was never really authentic, and felt more mass-produced than real. Invisible Children DID get people to REACT, but they failed in getting them to ACT. Sure there will be local pockets, but the whole GLOBAL PUSH turned out to be a dud. Maybe the next time, IC would have benefited from releasing the video closer to the Cover the Night date? They also failed by swinging for the fences and creating huge expectations that no one would have fulfilled.

A Guardian piece is highly critical of the campaign, and reports the following:

"This Invisible Children campaign hurts. It's offensive," says Victor Ochen, founder and director of the African Youth Initiative Network (Ayinet) that works to rehabilitate victims of violence perpetrated by Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). "The people who have suffered at the hands of Kony don't want to promote him or make him famous. They want to rebuild their lives."

As supporters of Invisible Children's campaign prepared for the its Cover the Night stunt on Friday night – putting up wanted posters in cities across the US and elsewhere – the organisation faced more criticism from LRA victims in northern Uganda for oversimplifying the complex history of conflict in the region, for failing to clearly state that the LRA are no longer a threat there and for advocating a military solution to the problem.

"We get the feeling that Invisible Children care more about their videos than about victims," said Ochen, who was born and raised in Lira District, an area severely affected by the conflict. "Part of that comes from their choice of date for this event. Why 20 April? Don't they know or care that this is the anniversary of one of the worst LRA massacres, when over 300 people were killed at Atiak in 2005?

The campaign also suffered from a key lesson in social media activism and virality: 7 weeks is an eternity when it comes to Internet time. TIME offers a good perspective, too. By the time Cover the Night arrived, most of the Internet was worried about Tupac holograms.