The archaeology of memes: Have you seen this boy?

The BBC is trying to track down the subject of a meme entitled "Skeptical 3rd-world child". The look on the child's face, reminiscent of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson raised eyebrow, created a dialogue. The website Know Your Meme places this image in the category of "Third Word Success" and gives more details of its origins. It was submitted to Reddit by user manute3392 on 22nd June 2012. The photographer was Redditor Neplam, who travelled to Gulu, Uganda as a volunteer of the Student Global Health Alliance (see Reddit comments on the image). The woman in the image is Heena Pranav, a doctor from Chicago. Two other figures, one perhaps Nepalm, can be seen in the reflection of her sunglasses. It quickly went viral, with users adding text to the image to create this dialogue.

Nepalm posted the image to Reddit as well, with a different title, appealing to "Make this skeptical kid into a meme, STAT!". It didn't go viral despite being posted one day earlier. manute3392 acknowledged Nepalm as the photographer in the comments section of the viral image and gave more information about the organisation. You can search for all the other posts submitted to Reddit by both users, a bizarre history of images, links, and in many ways, values. For example, the first post to Reddit made by manute3392 was a photograph of a licence number plate from Virginia. Nepalm submitted a question, asking "what is the most uncomfortable nickname you have ever been given?" 

The ethical issues of such image got swept away by virality, but BBC acknowledged them nonetheless. Who are the parents? What of informed consent and rights to privacy? It doesn't really matter whether the parents knew the image went viral, but whether they knew if the photograph was taken and posted online at all. The internet and social media has challenged conventional standards of privacy. At the same time, however, they've also enabled privacy to be bulldozed and superseded. Digital information, and digital images, once uploaded are difficult to remove. The concept of right to be forgotten, which is in practice in Argentina and the EU, stems from the stubbornness of digital information. Images such as this one take on a life of their own, with duplication after duplication being shared, created, and disseminated.

"We've chosen to publish the picture here because it has already been shared so widely and to highlight the debate it raises." - BBC.