Click-through credibility: Kony2012 and Webvybory2012

Like everyone who researches the internet and politics, I’ve been fascinated by the controversy generated by Kony2012. For Al Jazeera, I look at issues of transparency and credibility in online video propaganda, drawing a parallel between Kony2012 and the Russian government’s use of livestream voting to ward off allegations of fraud:

Viewed by over 65 million people, the [Kony2012] video has been praised for stimulating discourse and dismissed for spreading lies, but no one denies that it represents a pivotal moment in the use of online video for activism. Justice, in the Kony2012 paradigm, stems from visibility: “If people knew who he was, he would have been stopped long ago,” the video’s narrator claims.

By this logic, Kony2012 becomes exponentially more noble with each click – much like in the Russian election, when the presence of hundreds of thousands of informal election “monitors” watching from home were said to increase fairness with every view. And like the Russians who fervently embrace Putin, Invisible Children’s acolytes are sincere in their devotion to their cause. The behind-the-scenes politics may be dubious, but the crowd came out on its own, and then watched itself doing so. In both cases, deceptive politics are given click-through credibility, validated by the sheer number of witnesses.

That Kony2012 appeared the day after Webvybory2012 is coincidental, but their use of online video shares an important similarity. They are examples of online voyeur justice, in which a cause (electoral transparency, conflict resolution) is made meaningful only through viewership on a massive scale: unless “everyone” knows, unless “everyone” can see, both the video and its allied cause lose validity.

Read the full article here.

Update, March 13: Thanks, Radio Free Europe, for making this the only article about Kony2012 you will link to!

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