The social media campaign to help find the nearly 300 kidnapped Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, hashtag BringBackOurGirls ( #BringBackOurGirls ) is now under a cloud because the pictures that the campaign is using are not only not of the kidnapped girls, but they aren’t even of Nigerian girls. They are of girls from Guinea-Bissau (often pronounced ‘Guinea Vissau’).
And the pictures aren’t even from this decade, let alone from last month, when the girls were kidnapped.
Finally, they were lifted and used without permission of either the subjects, or the photographer, Ami Vitale.
However, by the time that Vitale realized that her images of girls from Guinea-Bissau, fourteen years ago, were being used to represent the Nigerian girls who were kidnapped last month, it was too late. Her images are all over Twitter, with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.
Now, you may be thinking “So what, the kidnapping was horrendous, if this helps, what’s the harm?”
But even leaving legal issues, such as misappropriation of likeness, and copyright, aside, Vitale gave her word to the families in Guinea-Bissau that she would treat their stories, and their photographs, with respect, and not misuse them. As she points out in an NPR interview, can you imagine being the mother or father of one of the girls in Guinea-Bissau, and seeing your daughter represented as having been kidnapped, and maybe sold into sex slavery?
Explains Vitale, in an interview with the Washington Post, “It’s a pretty sad view of the world. I know these families really well and you go in and tell people you want to share their story, and then [I] think, ‘What if they saw their image was used this way?'”
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