The hard-hitting film, uploaded by a group seeking to expose the guerilla leader Joseph Rao Kony, was relatively undiscovered until two days ago despite being first watched on the website Vimeo last Friday.
In the past 48 hours, Kony 2012 has been viewed more than 21m times on YouTube and 11m times on Vimeo.
According to YouTube statistics, the Kony video is most popular with young women aged 13 to 17 and men aged 18 to 24.
The 30-minute film has been viewed right across the globe and has racked up the most views in the US, China and Australia.
However, official YouTube figures show that the video has hardly received any views from internet users in Chad, the Central African Republic, Congo or Morocco.
“This is very unusual, to see something be this popular at that length in that short period of time,” said Christian d’Ippolito, group head of international sales at viral video experts Unruly Media.
The hugely popular film is not a typical internet success story. It is a world away from slapstick clips involving cute babies and cats, as it documents alleged atrocities by Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, and accuses the tyrant of turning African children into child slaves during years of abuse.
Its rapid rise to prominence has eclipsed other notable viral videos such as Fenton the dog, which racked up 5m views in three months last autumn, and the Double Rainbow video, undiscovered for a month before it was propelled to global fame in 2010.
“This is the key: YouTube is littered with a whole range of different video content – from lolcats to fails. It’s refreshing to see something that has at its core something that has a real strong message and it shows where the internet is moving,” said D’Ippolito.
“It’s not about the short sharp clips anymore. Now you’re seeing content designed to trigger a whole range of different emotions. It’s definitely hit its target of generating mass awareness.”
Link: The Guardian