More than three weeks ago over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted in the middle of the night by a terrorist group.
They’re still missing.
Thanks to a massive social media campaign, hope is being kept alive. Protests are being organised in various cities around the world; amplified by the voices and selfies of such celebrities as Kim Kardashian, Chris Brown and Michelle Obama. But as the world waits with bated breath for the girls to be rescued, a raging debate is taking place on the internet over whether the almighty hashtag really has the power to #BringBackOurGirls.
Reluctantly skipping over some very relevant commentary on the subject, here are a few articles I found interesting from a communications perspective.
- Beyond the #BringBackOurGirls vs. #Kony2012 debate, serious questions are being raised over whether #BringBackOurGirls is doing more harm than good. In her provocative post on Compare Afrique, Jumoke Balogun suggests that far from helping, the Twitter campaign could be hurting the cause.
She writes: “…when you pressure Western powers, particularly the American government to get involved in African affairs and when you champion military intervention, you become part of a much larger problem. You become a complicit participant in a military expansionist agenda on the continent of Africa. This is not good.”
The rebuttal to Balogun by Marissa Jackson, also posted on Compare Afrique, is worth reading. Jackson makes a stirring defense of #hashtag activism though I came away with the impression that the benefits of slacktivism swing just one way. She says, “As a black woman in the United States, this movement has become as meaningfully encouraging as it is frustrating because for the first time ever, I am witnessing men and women come together to notice when a group of black girls goes missing, and demand decisive action.”
- It sounds callous to be talking about business and marketing in the same breath as the campaign. But the marked silence of brands on the subject of the missing girls has not gone unnoticed. Brands are typically quick to attach their names to popular social causes when they know it will be good for business. (Remember Safaricom and the Kenyans for Kenya campaign?) In the case of #BringBackOurGirls Rick Brownell at PR News notes that big businesses are deliberately keeping a low profile.
He writes: “Regarding #BringBackOurGirls specifically, some international brands may be avoiding getting involved in the campaign for fear of exposing investments in countries where human trafficking is a major issue. Brands in this compromising position run the risk of being labeled hypocritical, tarnishing their public image at the point when they may have hoped to improve it…”
- And finally, here’s a positive critique of the social media machinery behind the campaign by Margie Clayman of the Razoo Foundation. For those involved in social media campaigning, it offers some interesting pointers.