Fake accounts hinder aid to Sudan

Joel Bautista | The Ticker

Joel Bautista | The Ticker

The “Blue Wave” tells Instagram’s story of Sudan. Users of the popular photo-sharing app have started to act in response to the recent uprisings in Sudan by changing their profile pictures to blue icons and by following accounts claiming to send aid to the country.

However, many accounts claiming to provide aid are often scams to gain followers and will not actually provide any relief or monetary assistance to Sudan. This begs to question how effective social media really is in the case of a world crisis.

It’s important to understand the crisis Sudan is currently facing. Uprisings in Sudan started late last year as a response to rising food costs and fuel shortages throughout the country, according to CNN. These uprisings eventually became more focused on removing the former president of the country, Omar al-Bashir. 

Al-Bashir has held a dictator-like rule on the country since 1989, when he led a coup that removed Sudan’s previous government, CNN also states. Even though there have been several elections since then, activist groups have reported that these elections were neither democratic nor peaceful. He faced a lot of resistance in his final years as leader of Sudan. 

Al-Bashir was removed from power and arrested through a military coup this past April. Although many Sudanese people saw this as a great accomplishment, they soon realized their problems were far from over. 

Soon enough, the military council that was put in place to initially oversee the transition of power decided that it would instead keep that power for itself.  

This crisis has caught worldwide attention, mostly through the help of social media platforms such as Instagram. With the situation escalating every day, social media users are herding to accounts that claim to help the people in Sudan. 

The biggest of these accounts, @SudanMealProject, gained 400,000 followers in less than a week and many copycat accounts have also gained thousands of followers since news of Sudan’s political unrest broke out, The Atlantic stated. 

Many of these accounts are claiming that they’ll send meals to Sudan for every like or share they receive on a post. Sending food to Sudan is nearly impossible through campaigns like these. Joe English, a UNICEF communications specialist told The Atlantic, “It’s incredibly difficult to send meals to Sudan.” 

Instagram has since deleted @SudanMealProject for violating its policies. “We will continue to look into this matter and disable further accounts we find in violation of our policies,” an Instagram spokesperson said in a CNN statement. However, this hasn’t slowed down the creation of fake charity accounts on the platform. 

One Instagram user, 15-year-old Nico from @exposinginstascams, has taken matters into his own hands by reporting these accounts himself. With over 22,500 followers now, he posts screenshots of Sudan-related fake Instagram charities in hopes that his followers will report those accounts. He has since created a GoFundMe page that raises money to be directly sent to the International Rescue Committee to help with actual aid in Sudan. 

Instagram’s policies prohibit impersonation, providing inaccurate information or misleading conduct or posting — these fake aid accounts are guilty of all of the violations listed. 

Instead of just relying on reports from other users, Instagram should be taking a more proactive role in the prevention of false accounts because these accounts end up harming actual relief efforts by diverting the situation to false charities instead of valid ones like UNICEF, the International Rescue Committee and Save the Children.