Activism through Insta-scams

Maddie Harris, Executive Lifestyle Editor

As sophomore Nell Badgley swiped through Instagram stories several months ago, she repeatedly saw a green post with a tree and the words, “Double tap to plant a tree.” Wanting to make a difference, she shared the picture on her story in hopes that the post’s creators were telling the truth. Later, when Badgley stumbled onto the account @exposinginstascams, she discovered the tree post was a scam. Since then, Badgley has learned about the shortcomings of these Instagram posts.

Owner of @exposinginstascams Nico Katzen said in a direct message that he made his account to point out scams. He posts tips to help viewers determine if an account claiming to be promoting activism is credible. For example, one should check for verification of partnership if an account claims to be associated with a company and verify that the account follows through on their mission, such as planting a tree for every like. One can also look at the account’s previous usernames by clicking on the profile’s upper-right corner, then “About This Account” and then clicking “Former Usernames,” but not all accounts have this option. Viewers should make sure the account is verified, which is shown by a blue check mark next to the username. Finally, they should make sure the account has proper grammar, accurate information, comments enabled or posts from at least one year ago.

Scam accounts are not limited to environmental issues, with others popping up in the past few months claiming connections to UNICEF, an international aid foundation.

UNICEF Communications Specialist Joe English said in a phone interview that while donations are always beneficial to support a cause, young people can also get involved through raising awareness by sharing factual information and pointing out when information is false.

This is a moment in time where I see such power that young people can have when it comes to activism.

Writing about these [accounts], whether it’s your student newspaper or a blog post, or whether it’s just talking to someone about it, I think that is so important and is a great way of bringing these issues to a wider attention,” English said.

According to Badgley, people have been worried about what is happening in the world lately, so they share posts, which end up being scams, to try to take action.

“Although it’s easy, it’s not necessarily the best thing to do,” said Badgley. “It’s not going to be easy to support the issues that matter, but you kind of have to make a little bit of an effort.”