What about Twitter ?

by Silver- on April 2, 2015 - 2:14pm

The Media have become our news reporters where billions and billions of people rely on the media to provide us with information in order to keep us up to date.  The Media informations are available to us in many different formats where they help incorporate a wide variety of information to us on a daily basis.  A media source in particular that has come to my attention is Twitter.  Twitter allows sharing of pictures, conversations and it has become a concern from an ethical point of view.

            On April 15th, an extremist Muslim group called Boko Haram kidnapped approximately 300 girls in northern Nigeria (Olin, 2014). These girls were aged 15 to 18 and it was reported that they were to be sold at 12 dollars each to militants. The northeastern part of Nigeria is a region half Muslim and half Christian with some western ideologies, in particular the education of girls. Thus, the opposing ideology of Borok Haram triggered the kidnapping. This crime has been secret for 2 weeks when on April 23rd, activists in Nigeria started protesting and introduced the #bringbackourgirls campaign due to the inaction of the Nigerian government. The hashtag campaign started out in Nigeria and found its way across the world. People in the western world were able to participate via Twitter. However, ethical issues arose.

The most important ethical issue of this hashtag was similar to the Kony 2012 campaign where it provided us with a flawed assumption that awareness constitutes a form of action. Also, there is reason to question the accuracy and the reality of the tweets. It is possible that many of the “participants” in the hashtag campaign are not fully aware of the situation or have little knowledge of the detailed problem in Nigeria and therefore, participate as a form of trend. For example, some retweet pictures of girls with the hashtag “bring back our girls” but these girls have no relation with the kidnapping. Therefore, on an ethical point of view, there is a problem of misrepresention (Huettner, 2014) where it represented the western population’s ideal of a Nigerian girl, which questions the concept of racism.  In addition, Teju Cole, a Nigerian-American writer, expressed his discontent on Twitter about the hashtag campaign being ineffective. He says that these tweets have oversimplified and sentimentalized the country’s issues and failed to accomplish anything (Dewey, 2014). The hashtag campaign gained most of its popularity once Michelle Obama’s picture went viral. She is seen carrying a poster with the hashtag while posing a sad face. Although it raised awareness, it did not help rescue the kidnapped girls. The prevalence of the twitter hashtags has only encouraged Borok Haram to blow up a bridge and kill hundred of people. Therefore, there is controversy in the way the awareness of the kidnapping was handled politically (Howard, 2014).   Parallel to these problems in the media, it was reported by the U.N. that meanwhile the widespread of the “Bring back our girls” campaign, five thousand people (children, adults) were killed each month in the civil war in Syria and this, without the same social media attention generated by the hashtag campaign (Raicu, 2014). Therefore, the effectiveness and the responsibility the media have are questionable and raise another important question: how do we determine which contents become viral and which remain a secret?

Also, it cannot go without saying that since the widespread of the hashtag campaign, there has been no success in rescuing those girls. Despite the campaign that hoped for change and hoped for actions to be taken, they still remain missing. One could argue that the hashtag activism on Twitter helps find the kidnapped girls as it raises awareness but another could argue that it does not due to the lack of success of finding these missing girls. It can be argued that the hashtag is seen as a “wave of global sentimentality,” and there is no further action to be taken as technology is not an active participation. Tweeting is not enough to genuinely rescue the missing girls; it only provides people with the assumption that they “did something.”

            It is difficult to clearly state the effectiveness of the twitter hashtag campaign and whether these tweets are helping the abducted girls because although we bring awareness to one problem, we neglect and ignore other important problems such as the one in Syria. Although ethical issues are considered, it is impossible to neglect the ability of social media to spread awareness and a message.


Works cited

C. Dewey. #Bringbackourgirls, #Kony2012, and the complete, divisive history of ‘hashtag activism’. Washington Post, May 2014. Web. April 2, 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/05/08/bringbackourgirls-kony2012-and-the-complete-divisive-history-of-hashtag-activism/


L. Olin. #Bringbackourgirls: Hashtag activism is cheap-and that’s a good thing. Time, May 2014. Web. April 2, 2015. http://time.com/94059/bringbackourgirls-hashtag-activism-is-cheap-and-thats-a-good-thing/


J. Huettner. #Bringbackourgirls and the Dilemma of Hashtag Activism. Warscapes. May 2014. Web. April 2, 2015. http://www.warscapes.com/blog/bringbackourgirls-and-dilemma-hashtag-activism


I. Raicu. Hashtag Activism and the Power of Attention: An Ethics Case Study. Santa Clara University. May 2014. Web. April 2, 2015.



E. Howard. Bring back our girls: global protests over abduction of Nigerian schoolgirls. The Guardian. May 2014. Web. April 2, 2015.




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