For the last several weeks, #bringbackourgirls has been trending on Twitter as an effort to raise awareness about the kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls from their Chibok, Nigeria, school by the Boko Haram terrorist group.
Everyone from activists to celebrities has used #bringbackourgirls, causing the hashtag to be retweeted nearly 2 million times. But earlier this week, one random woman tried to lay claim to creating it.
In interviews with CNN and ABC, Ramaa Mosley (@marystrawberry), a documentarian based out of Los Angeles, said that after hearing the story of the girls, and noticing there was no social media outcry or mentions of it, she decided to take matters into her own hands and do something about it.
By do something about it, she actually means that she took a hashtag that was being used already and claimed it as her own. Mosley “Christopher Columbus'd” #bringbackourgirls, and unfortunately the media outlets who interviewed her about the hashtag didn't do a very good job of researching how #bringbackourgirls started.
So let’s take a look at the origins of #bringbackourgirls.
According to the Wall Street Journal and Twitter’s own search tool, which was readily available for CNN and ABC to use for research, #bringbackourgirls was first used by Ibrahim Musa Abdullahi, a 35-year-old Nigerian attorney in the capital, Abuja. Abdullahi said he first heard the chant while watching World Bank Vice President Obiageli Ezekwesili give a speech during the celebration of Port Harcourt’s year as the United Nations’ world book capital. During the speech, Ezekwesili led the crowd into a chant of “bring back our daughters.” And it was then that Abdullahi took to Twitter and formed the hashtag “bring back our girls” on April 23.
Ezekwesili then took the hashtag and retweeted it to her 125,000 followers, “Lend your Voice to the Cause of our Girls. Please All, use the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls to keep the momentum UNTIL they are RESCUED.”
So who’s to blame when a movement is hijacked by some random person on social media? Is it Mosley’s fault because she laid claim to it? Or is it the fault of CNN and ABC not doing their due diligence when it comes to simple research that could have pointed them in the white, I mean right, direction?
Since Twitter accused Mosley of being a hashtag thief, the Twitter user Torchy Brown created a hashtag in honor of Mosley. Who knows what else she claims to have created:
Will Mosley see the error of her ways? Probably not, but social media doesn’t plan on letting her forget them.
Yesha Callahan is editor of The Grapevine and a staff writer at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.