While watching “Move,” Invisible Children’s follow-up to the massively successful “Kony 2012,” something struck me as being slightly unusual. As most of us do when watching from YouTube, I scrolled down to the video’s comments hoping to see the Internet public’s “informed” anonymous reactions to this controversial new release. With the breakout success of “Kony 2012” and the subsequent meltdown of one of the film’s creators, Jason Russell, I figured that the notoriously opinionated YouTube commenters would have a few choice words about the 30-minute film.
Surprisingly, Invisible Children had disabled comments on the YouTube video, instead asking viewers to comment on the relatively unknown video news-sharing site #waywire. Backed by past Google chief executive Eric Schmidt and Oprah Winfrey, #waywire encourages users to shoot and edit responses to videos around the web as well as share breaking news coverage and topics.
The choice on Invisible Children’s part to funnel commenters to #waywire essentially makes sense. Few organizations have fallen under the same amount of scrutiny as Invisible Children has in the past year. As “Kony 2012” destroyed viral video records, media outlets scrambled to dig up photos and financial records that would damn the alleged non-profit organization. Needless to say, after the completely visceral reaction the public had towards “Kony 2012,” once “truths” were revealed about Invisible Children, those same emotional reactions turned from compassion to anger.
With those wounds still fresh, “Move” was naturally destined to receive the brunt of much of public’s feelings of betrayal, and what better place to make your voice heard than YouTube’s comments. While it seems that Invisible Children’s policy now consists of disabling comments on everything they upload, that decision seems to bump heads with the non-profit’s fundamental message.
Invisible Children’s goal for “Move” is to rally together to make our voices be heard by the U.S. government so they will bring the LRA to justice. Although most internet comment boxes are a spawning place for all the ignorance you could expect from anonymous weirdoes, YouTube’s comment section is still a destination to make your voice be heard.
The comment options at #waywire consist primarily of leaving video feedback for other viewers to watch and respond to. Even though opening up comments on #waywire shows that Invisible Children is receptive to feedback, the directing of those comments towards #waywire is worrisome. The majority of people willing to record themselves for a comment are going to be complimentary of any body of work. The capability to give truthful and honest comments — even if they are negative — can often come from the ability to remain anonymous when commenting.
With something as deeply felt as the issues covered by Invisible Children, people will feel a natural need to remain protected while commenting — especially on the Internet. By only acknowledging comments on #waywire, Invisible Children is instantly alienating those who have concerns about what the non-profit is asking of us. If Invisible Children wishes to truly be the champions of making the public’s voice be heard, why are they telling us we can’t comment on YouTube?
The difference between giving a voice to the voiceless, which the LRA have and will hurt, and commenters on YouTube is vast. However, if Invisible Children is asking us to stand up and make our voice be heard to the U.S. government, shouldn’t we at least be able to voice our opinions on YouTube first?
I reached out to Invisible Children for comment on why the disabling of their YouTube comments and am still awaiting a response.