Atlantic Council Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham writes an op-ed for The Hill explaining that, while social media efforts like #BringBackOurGirls may shed light on important issues, they also are limited in what they can accomplish in real terms:


The global phenomenon of the #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign has  succeeded beyond all expectations in not only raising awareness of the plight of  the nearly 300 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram militants, but in focusing  much-needed attention on the burgeoning threat posed by the Islamist group.

Back in 2011, when I testified at the first congressional hearing ever held on Boko Haram, an  event held in conjunction with the release of a bipartisan report spearheaded by  Reps. Patrick Meehan (R-Penn.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), the topic was so  obscure that all of the participants could have convened in a broom closet.

In  the little more than three weeks since First Lady Michelle Obama posed for her  selfie with the hashtag, the United States has deployed military, intelligence  and law enforcement personnel to Nigeria, where they have joined British and  French teams helping with the search; other countries, including Israel and even  China, have also offered assistance; French President François Hollande has  hosted a summit in Paris which resulted in West African countries declaring  “total war” on the Boko Haram; and President Obama has notified Congress under the War Powers Act that U.S.  military personnel and an unarmed Predator drone have been sent to Chad to fly  missions over northern Nigeria as part of the effort to locate the missing  girls. All this happened because the unprecedented display of global  social-media power — from its April 23 start with a frustrated Nigerian lawyer,  Ibrahim Abdullahi, to its embrace by everyone from Pakistani Taliban victim and  girls’ education advocate Malala Yousafzai to actress Angelina Jolie to British  Prime Minister David Cameron to Michelle Obama — essentially shamed Nigerian  President Goodluck Jonathan into accepting the help that his government has  nevertheless long-resisted asking for.

Read the full op-ed here.

Related Experts: J. Peter Pham