Maggie: We all use social media every day to talk to our friends, find cool stories, even share cat videos. But this week, social media was used for something much more powerful. Keith Kocinski shows us how one hashtag has fueled a movement.
Keith: The Ursuline School color is blue. But many of the students at this all-girls school in New Rochelle, New York wore red this week.
Student: We’re not there in Nigeria with them, but we’re marching too.
Keith: Red is the color of the protests in Nigeria – people pushing to get more attention for the nearly 300 girls that were abducted by a terrorist group known as Boko Haram. The kidnappings are among a series of attacks over the last few months by the extremist group. So far this year, more than 1,600 people have been killed.
Many of these girls here in the U.S. first learned about the kidnappings on Twitter.
The abduction in Nigeria was on April 15th. The story didn’t gain traction online until April 23rd when two Nigerians tweeted #bringbackourdaughters.
This time-lapse of Twitter message traffic shows within days a new slogan, ‘bring back our girls,’ was being shared around the world. The messages skyrocketed from a couple thousand to a quarter million on April 30th, the day the kidnappers threatened to marry off their hostages or sell them. Activists and celebrities posted online demands for action, including singer Mary J. Blige and Hillary Clinton. Even Michele Obama joined the effort. By yesterday, ‘bring back our girls’ had been tweeted a million times.
The movement is having an impact. The Nigerian government has now offered a $300,000 reward for information on the girls. And the U.S. is sending a small team of investigators to Nigeria to help find them and negotiate their release.
New York University Professor Beth Noveck follows social media’s impact on government.
Professor Beth Noveck: What this has done is brought it to popular attention by using essentially a bumper sticker, a hashtag, that gets people talking and that gets people sharing the idea with one another.
Keith: It is a lesson the students at Ursuline are learning. Veronique Ntumba is about to graduate. Without social media, she may have never heard the story.
Veronique Ntumba: Probably not, which is really sad. As the days went on, you see more and more people tweeting about it.
Keith: Keith Kocinski, Channel One News.
Maggie: There are reports that the terrorist leader behind the kidnapping is deep inside a remote forest eight times larger than Yellowstone National Park.