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Tuesday, October 7, 2014
How The World Quickly Stopped Caring About The Kidnapped Nigerian Girls In 3 Simple Charts
Hayes Brown, an editor at ThinkProgress.org and a blogger conducted a research dedicated to the kidnap of more than 200 girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in the town of Chibok, located in Nigeria’s northeast Borno state by militants from the terrorist group commonly known as Boko Haram on April 14, 2014.
The research is based on 5 Goggle trends charts. Here’s only the part of the article that may be interesting for Nigerian readers:
The girls are still missing. Their mothers still protest in Nigeria’s capital. International assistance is flowing into the country to aid in the search. Despite that, the interest in the plight of the nearly three hundred school-aged girls taken over two months ago has plummeted since the story first became the latest cause célèbre on the Internet. It’s a common enough assumption as to become cliche that interest in news stories, barring large flashy developments, tends to fade over time.
But the data backs up that idea, particularly in the case of the story of the three hundred girls from the Government Girls Secondary School in the town of Chibok, located in Nigeria’s northeast Borno state. According to the data, that interest lasted for roughly a week before sharply dropping to the levels seen today. Since the kidnapping finally made its way into the international press, the story has been shared and tracked on social media through the hashtag “#BringBackOurGirls, serving almost as a brand for the abduction, an easy way to refer to the complex situation unraveling.
Google offers a service called Google Trends which can be used to examine how many people worldwide search for given terms compared to other points over a certain period. Plugging #BringBackOurGirls into Google Trends, modeling the last 90 days of search traffic, shows a surge of interest in the term peaking on Fri. May 9, before a sharp drop-off the following Monday.
The hashtag originated in Nigeria roughly two weeks after the girls’ kidnapping. Searches for the hashtag on Google skyrocketed the third week of the girls’ kidnapping. A drop-off in interest into the hashtag doesn’t necessary mean that interest in the story writ large is also falling. As a way to minimize the chances of that, ThinkProgress also ran a query for the term “Nigeria girls,” a simple shorthand for the story. The results are similar in terms of a clear peak followed by a substantial drop-off in interest.
A small surge can be seen around May 1, the day after families of the kidnapped girls launched their first protest demanding that the government move faster to locate their sisters, nieces, and daughters. Interest began to climb before — as seen with searches for #BringBackOurGirls — reaching an apex on May 8.
By May 12, when a new video featuring Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau offering to trade the kidnapped girls for the release of jailed compatriots — and allegedly showing around half of the kidnapped girls clad in full-length jilbābs — emerged, the interest had clearly waned.
The other piece to this story is the involvement of Boko Haram, as the identity of the kidnappers was suspected but unconfirmed for the first weeks of the abduction. Once Shekau released his video listing his demands, the searches for “Boko Haram” on Google worldwide peaked. But much like the other search terms, the interest has since fallen off precipitously, though not to the same degree.
Here’s a search for the terms “Nigeria and kidnapping” for each of the days since the girls were first abducted:
(Click to enlarge)
Despite the lagging interest, events continue apace in the pursuit of the girls and the efforts to rein in Boko Haram. A full international presence has been mobilized in Nigeria. The United States is currently flying both manned and unmanned missions over Nigeria in an attempt to gain intelligence on just where the girls may be located. Countries as far-flung as Israel — who has sent intelligence experts to aid the government — have even contributed to the cause.
Even as the cameras leave the country, Nigerians in the north, where Boko Haram is strongest, are still fleeing the fighting across the border. “In all 250,000 people are now internally displaced, according to the Nigeria Emergency Management Agency (NEMA),” United Nations High Commission for Refugees spokesperson Adrian Edwards said on May 9. “Some 61,000 others have fled to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.” But now, Boko Haram’s campaign appears to be following them.
The chance remains that the Jonathan government, which has been sharply criticized for its response to the crisis, could react harshly to such a strong rebuke and what is quickly becoming a referendum on his leadership. So while interest in the tale of Boko Haram and the kidnapped girls is exiting the public imagination around the world, the story remains sharply burned in the minds of Nigerians.