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“KONY 2012” video seen 40 million times in four days

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Thanks mainly to celebrities, teens and young adults sharing it on social media, a 30-minute Youtube video featuring a man named Joseph Kony has been viewed more than 40 million times since Monday.

The video is the centerpiece of “KONY 2012,” a campaign started by Invisible Children, based in San Diego. The campaign’s goal is to see Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, captured by the end of the year.

View the video on Youtube

The Associated Press reported the LRA is a Central Africa militia that has kidnapped thousands of children and forced them to become sex slaves, fight as child soldiers and kill family members. It began its attacks in the 1980s, but few Americans knew about it until the video was released on Monday.

The video’s premise is to make Kony and his crimes so “famous,” as film director Jason Russell put it,  that governments see it as important that the mission to capture him succeeds. Russell said he wants to show that people have the power to stop Kony if they use the power of social media.

Invisible Children’s critics said the group oversimplifies a complex issue. In a rebuttal posted on its website, the anti-LRA group acknowledges the video overlooks many nuances. However, it said it sought to explain the conflict “in an easily understandable format.” It called the film a “first entry point.”

“It’s something we can all agree on regardless of your political background,” said Ben Keesey, the group’s 28-year-old chief executive officer. “There are few times where problems are black and white. There’s lots of complicated stuff in the world, but Joseph Kony and what he’s doing is black and white.”

Those who have helped spread the word on their Twitter accounts are Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Oprah. They have slightly more than 40 million Twitter followers combined.