Fighting #BOKOHARAM one tweet at a time

Two years ago, Boko Haram seized 276 girls in the northeast town of Chibok, Nigeria.  At least 270 still remain missing.

Parents of the missing Nigerian schoolgirls abducted say they have identified some of the girls in a proof-of-life video. The video was released to local government officials in Chibok on Tuesday, Reuters reported. Around 15 girls are shown in the video, in which an off-camera male asks the girls what their names are and where they were taken from.

The video has reignited the social media campaign that started in April 2014 when the girls went missing. Today the word Chibok trended in Nigeria with more than 50,000 mentions, and it continues to grow momentum.

On further analysis, we found that many of these tweets are forming a so-called “anti-terrorism online campaign.”

This type of campaign was at the root of momentous slogans such as #BringBackOurGirls, which went viral on Twitter worldwide in 2014. Deutsche Welle claimed that the campaign was “one of the few events on the African continent that has succeeded in causing this much of a global stir.” This hashtag also held onto its place at the top of Twitter trends for an impressive 365 days – an unfathomable amount of time considering the small life span of most campaigns. Other hashtags such as #chiobokgirls also had notable success, notching up over 145,000 geolocated mentions in Nigeria alone last year.

These two hashtags in particular were very successful because they were able to encapsulate their cause. The incorporation of these hashtags in online conversations significantly boosted participation. The ability of these ‘clicktivist’ hashtag campaigns to mobilise great swathes of influential people is clearly evident. At least it is online.

How effective the strategy is in transforming these calls to action into concrete momentum on the ground is open for debate. As it stands, the two hundred girls from Chiobok are still missing. However, we conclude that while actions speak louder than Twitter’s trending words, the awareness these trends bring is valuable. Michelle Obama may never have brought Boko Haram to the attention of many Americans if she had not engaged with #BringBackOurGirls.

We believe that rather than dismissing Twitter as a place of talk and no action, it should instead be seen as a place that ignites important conversations – which it clearly does. Once it is trending on Twitter it is our turn to take action.


To read more about Twitter use in Africa, check out our new study at

Written By

Yasmin Kamel