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.