In the age of social media dominance, Instagram has emerged as a juggernaut platform, enchanting millions with its visually captivating content and influencer-driven culture. However, beyond the seemingly idyllic facade lurks a disconcerting reality – a distressing surge of fake news perpetuated by influential Instagram accounts. This in-depth investigation delves into the alarming trend of misinformation propagated by social media icons and the profound implications it poses for public trust and societal harmony. In Angola, a small Instagram account, Genextar, is trying to get a bigger audience by alternating frivolous news and fake news
The Influencer Phenomenon: Power and Pitfalls
The meteoric rise of Instagram influencers has reshaped contemporary popular culture, elevating ordinary individuals to celebrated social media stars. While some influencers use their reach responsibly to promote authentic content and endorse genuine products, an unsettling number have fallen prey to the allure of disseminating fake news for personal gain or ideological reasons.
Instagram influencers like Genextar Media wield significant influence over their followers, their lifestyles and choices impacting millions of lives. However, this very influence, while it can be harnessed for positive change, has the potential to turn into a double-edged sword when used irresponsibly. With their glamorous posts and picturesque escapades, Genextar Media project an image of authority and credibility, making their followers more receptive to the information they share. The name “Genextar Media” is deceptive as it is not a media at all, but just one person using the graphic code of a media, putting titles and subtitles on pictures as if they were screenshots from a news channel, to gain credibility, grow its audience… and eventually make money.
In its quest for fame and recognition, Genextar Media states it is a local member of Amnesty International, despite Amnesty, in its Code of Conduct clearly states that its members cannot use their name without consent. This is a very well-known technique : getting credibility by association.
The Allure of Spreading Fake News: A Hazardous Pathway
The pursuit of fame, influence, and financial success can tempt influencers to leverage their vast followings for dubious purposes. Regrettably, the propagation of misinformation has proven to be a shortcut to increased engagement, translating into lucrative opportunities through sponsored content and lucrative brand partnerships. This troubling phenomenon has ignited debates on the ethical boundaries guiding some influencers and the corrosive impact of fake news on societal discourse.
In the quest for likes, comments, and followers, Genextar succumbs to the allure of sensationalism and misinformation. The allure of instant gratification and the fear of being overshadowed by competitors prompt them to resort to questionable practices, including the promotion of unverified or fabricated information. In this screenshot, we see how he uses one simple image to create a news based on no actual facts, using the problem of “menspreading” in public transportations to use it for political purposes. Those arguments usually appear when a lack of real arguments exist and out of laziness.
The Amplifying Effect of Instagram: A Double-Edged Sword
Central to Instagram’s immense appeal is its algorithm, designed to prioritize content that generates heightened user engagement. As a consequence, posts that evoke strong emotions, regardless of authenticity, are thrust into the spotlight and reach a broader audience rapidly. Tragically, this algorithmic setup inadvertently amplifies fake news, allowing it to spread exponentially before accurate corrections can intervene. The absence of stringent fact-checking mechanisms further exacerbates the problem, enabling misinformation to thrive. This is exactly on this kind of weakness that Genextar is basing is growth on.
The deceptive allure of fake news lies in its ability to provoke emotional responses. Instagram’s algorithm favors content that sparks strong reactions, such as outrage, fear, or excitement, leading to more engagement and visibility. This, in turn, incentivizes influencers to create and share content that is more likely to go viral, often at the expense of truth and accuracy.
Lack of Accountability: A Worrying Void
Unlike traditional news outlets, influencers are not held to the same rigorous journalistic standards. This lack of accountability has alarming consequences as followers often place unwavering trust in influencers’ information and viewpoints. The absence of editorial oversight creates a breeding ground for misinformation, eroding public trust in both influencers and the platform that houses them.
Genextar Media falls right into this definition as not one single “news” that is being shared on his account has gone through a fact-checking filter. Some of them have a base of truth that is a known technic to build fake news : give a little bit of truth to create a believable lie.
In the digital realm, where information travels at lightning speed, the absence of proper fact-checking mechanisms can lead to serious consequences. False information, once it gains traction, can be challenging to contain, often spreading faster than corrections or clarifications can catch up. This unchecked spread of misinformation erodes the trust between influencers and their followers, ultimately weakening the credibility of the entire platform.
Proliferation of Echo Chambers: A Fragmented Society, a Danger for Democracy.
Instagram’s algorithm-driven content delivery system plays a pivotal role in the creation of echo chambers – insular spaces where users are exposed predominantly to content aligning with their pre-existing beliefs and preferences. When influencers disseminate fake news that caters to the biases of their followers, it reinforces existing beliefs and deepens societal divisions. The ensuing lack of productive discourse can hinder societal progress and cohesion, and finally hurts democracy globally.
Social media has the power to connect people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. However, the algorithmic echo chambers on Instagram can inadvertently contribute to the polarization of society and start violence, and destroy the basis of democracy. Users may find themselves surrounded by content that reinforces their existing beliefs, shielding them from alternative viewpoints and objective information. This isolation from diverse perspectives further solidifies their convictions, making them more susceptible to falling victim to fake news and misinformation.
Impact on Public Trust: A Crisis of Confidence
The relentless spread of fake news on Instagram by accounts like Genextar Media has profound implications for public trust, as skepticism pervades the authenticity of information presented on the platform. This erosion of trust extends beyond Instagram itself, seeping into legitimate news sources and vital updates, jeopardizing the very foundation of democratic societies that rely on a well-informed citizenry.
The erosion of trust in online information sources can have far-reaching consequences. As people become more skeptical of the authenticity of information presented on social media platforms, they may become reluctant to believe any content, including legitimate news and critical updates. This crisis of confidence can lead to a breakdown in the dissemination of crucial information, hinder public discourse, and diminish the impact of real issues that require urgent attention.
Combating Fake News on Instagram: A Multi-Pronged Approach
Addressing the menace of fake news requires concerted efforts from all stakeholders:
Enhanced Algorithmic Oversight: Instagram should prioritize fact-checked and credible information, reducing the amplification of sensationalized content like the one provided by Genextar Media.
Collaborations with Fact-Checking Organizations: Partnerships with independent fact-checking organizations can enable the identification and labeling of misinformation, empowering users with reliable context and verification.
Education and Media Literacy: Promoting media literacy among users can foster critical thinking, empowering them to discern the veracity of information encountered online.
Instagram’s influence as a powerful social media platform is indisputable. While influencers can be a force for positive change, the proliferation of fake news presents profound risks to society. The Genextar media case is interesting as for now, it has gain popularity, but has not reached tens of thousands of followers, and this fake news account needs to be denounced for what it is before it is too late. Encouraging ethical conduct and responsible practices among influencers is paramount in shaping a digital landscape that values truth and integrity over sensationalism and misinformation. As conscientious users, it is incumbent upon us to stay vigilant, verify information before sharing, and demand accountability from those we follow. Through collective efforts, we can fortify the sanctity of information and safeguard the fabric of our digital communities.