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Social media campaign may be double-edged sword
W Bring Back Our Girls
Nearly 300 Nigerian girls were kidnapped last month from their all-girls school by armed members of the terrorist group Boko Haram. Now, a social media campaign has brought the issue to the forefront of American political discussion. - photo by Deseret News

    The abduction of almost 300 high-school girls from their dormitories in northern Nigeria more than a month ago went largely unnoticed by the Western press until a social media campaign using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls brought it to the forefront of American political discussion.
    The hashtag has now been tweeted millions of times, mobilizing some to action, and the U.S. government has pledged 200 troops and $7 million to rescuing the girls. Is this another example of the power of social media to affect change?
    Perhaps. But some are arguing the attention may be exactly what the terrorist group behind the kidnappings wanted all along.
    The millions of tweets didn't happen until two weeks after the abduction, when news broke that terrorist organization Boko Haram actually began selling the girls. At that point, media coverage spiked, according to an explainer article on Vox.
    At around the same time, prominent peole including Malala Yousafzai, Hillary Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama began tweeting the hashtag. That celebrity attention helped increase the use of #BringBackOurGirls, according to a history of the short campaign on Mashable.
    "Maybe if the more than 200 Nigerian girls abducted from their school weeks ago were on a ferry in Korea, a jet liner in the Indian Ocean, in the owner's box at a Clippers basketball game, or were white, the world would pay more attention," Boing Boing blogger Xeni Jardin wrote.
    Since the social media craze, Boko Haram has been listed on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations.
    However, all the media attention may be a double-edged sword that gives Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau exactly what he's seeking.
    NBC News' Cassandra Vinograd writes, "After years of calling out to al Qaeda and taunting world leaders from Barack Obama to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, the outcry over the kidnappings has finally put Shekau in the spotlight."
    "This is what Shekau always wanted. He's finally gotten placed on the world stage, and this is his time to act," said Jacob Zenn, an analyst of African and Eurasian Affairs for the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

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