Social media keeping heat on terrorists [Boston Herald :: ]
(Boston Herald (MA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) May 11--As global pressure mounts to rescue nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by ruthless Islamic terrorists, social media has helped keep the issue in the forefront in what experts say is the new normal for activism.
"This is probably page one in the new 'Dummies' Guide' to activism," said David Gerzof Richard, a marketing professor at Emerson College. "Something like this, once it reaches a critical mass on Twitter, tends to have a much longer lifespan."
The girls were kidnapped from a school April 15 by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram and while at first it received little attention, a social media campaign quickly put the crisis on the global agenda.
Use of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag on Twitter has skyrocketed in recent days, fueled in large part by celebrities including first lady Michelle Obama and Pope Francis tweeting their support.
According to social analytics company Topsy, #BringBackOurGirls has been tweeted 2 million times in the past seven days, and 500,000 times in the 24-hour stretch from 5 p.m. Friday to 5 p.m. yesterday.
While a hashtag will not bring a resolution on its own, Gerzof Richard said social media can play a role in increasing and maintaining awareness.
"Certainly it helps keep the conversation going, long enough for the conversation to develop a critical mass offline," he said. "That's the nature of Twitter, it truly is information by democracy."
International efforts to rescue the girls got underway yesterday, with French security experts joining British, American and Nigerian forces in the African country. And outrage at the prolonged failure of the Nigerian military to rescue the girls continued to grow, with Michelle Obama using the president's weekly radio address to say she and the president are "outraged and heartbroken" over the mass abduction.
But it wasn't just Western nations and leaders condemning the group -- the International Union for Muslim Scholars yesterday called on Boko Haram to immediately release the girls, saying the actions of the homegrown terrorist network "are very far from Islamic teachings."
The 56-country Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the world's largest bloc of Islamic countries, said it is planning a meeting to focus on groups like Boko Haram that are part of "the growing phenomenon of dangerous extremist groups who hijacked Islam and are committing crimes in the name of religion."
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