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Instagram grapples with 'fake news' problem as phony accounts proliferate

Alexandra Canal
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Fake or “copycat” Instagram (FB) accounts are taking over the platform, in a ploy to attract more followers.

Scam accounts like the now-deleted @SudanMealPlan have been exploiting high-profile movements by preying on unassuming users. Separately, Sudan’s deepening political crisis is the latest target with @SudanMealPlan garnering nearly half a million followers — in just one week.

Taylor Lorenz, a staff writer at “The Atlantic” who covers internet culture, told Yahoo Finance in a recent interview that there are “hundreds and hundreds if not thousands of copycat accounts” just like @SudanMealPlan.

The account was removed by Instagram for violating its policies, after falsely claiming it would provide meals to starving Sundanese children in exchange for a follow.

“Obviously these people are not going to be able to provide any meals,” Lorenz said on YFi PM. She added that many copycat accounts with similar names are still active on the site.

Recently deleted scam account @SudanMealPlan (Courtesy: 'The Atlantic', Instagram)
Recently deleted scam account @SudanMealPlan (Courtesy: 'The Atlantic', Instagram)

Why Instagram ‘needs to crack down’ on fake news

Thanks to the growing success of influencer marketing and increased importance of “likes” on the picture sharing site, these fake accounts usually translate into hard cash in real life.

“Say you scale an account to half a million hyper-engaged followers, all of whom have already shared your content — that’s a very valuable account,” Lorenz explained.

“Not only can you sell that account to a brand, or on the black market, but you can also pivot it to a meme page and monetize it aggressively and make a lot of money,” she added.

Amid the fight against fake news and doctored videos, the spread of fake accounts is adding a new layer to the multiple challenges facing social media platforms.

Phony social media postings “are spreading misinformation,” Lorenz told Yahoo Finance. “Instagram needs to crack down.”

Alexandra Canal is a Producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @alliecanal8193

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