Why You Should Not Believe Instagram Philanthropy


Heather Holm, Staff Writer

Every day we open our Instagrams and learn about yet another issue we should care about. Some problems, however, spread faster than others and set the Instagram stories section ablaze with emotional photos and impactful infographics. We want to show the world that we care about these injustices and care to stop them, but sometimes we do not have the money to do so. This dilemma is where philanthropy accounts come in. Just repost their photo and they will donate money or supplies for you. You feel like a true humanitarian after you click that add post to story button. Relief is on the way thanks to you, but deep down you feel that this post seems a little too good to be true — that’s because it is.

Since April 2019, Sudan has been devastated by violence after their former president, Omar al-Bashir was ousted in a military coup. In June of 2019, over 200 protestors were killed including Mohamed Hashim Mattar. His Instagram profile photo at the time was steel blue which eventually became the symbol of the pro-democratic uprising and the color hundreds of thousands of Instagram users made their profile photos as an act of solidarity.

It wasn’t long before individuals exploited this tragedy to gain followers. That same month the now-infamous account titled “Sudan Meal Project” gained 400,000 followers in one week after they posted a photo promising to donate a meal to Sudanese children for every repost it got. While you think people would question its validity, the account was unverified and was not linked to any official organization, Instagram users ate it up and the post ended up getting over one million likes.

Some eventually figured out the entire account was a scam, users began to comment on the ability of any organization to send meals to Sudan. Joe English, a UNICEF communications specialist, stated: “it’s incredibly hard to send meals to Sudan.” If you still believe that Sudan Meal Project was created with the intent to send meals and perhaps the owner was just in over their head, the account owner has since said “what I am obtaining is followers and exposure…I love how the left likes to twist these stories.” Unfortunately the damage had already been done, an Instagram troll was able to divert users’ attention away from legitimate organizations, and it’s happening again for the Australian wildfires.

Perhaps you have seen a post from an account titled “Plant a Tree Co” on your Instagram stories. The post is simple yet effective; it has large font over a burning home with a kangaroo in front saying to repost to donate to Australia. Not only is the account not verified, but it also has no source of money listed or any partnerships. After their post went viral, the account began to advertise “free necklaces” on their story and their website only sells merchandise.

To stop accounts like Sudan Meal Project and Plant a Tree Co. Instagram users must be aware of the following criteria that most fraudulent accounts share: little contact information, no proof of donations, only one post on their page, the act of asking for reposts or likes, and no Instagram verification. If the account whose post you want to share has any of these features, do not repost it. These accounts are more than just annoying; they are taking away from organizations that actually help and use natural disasters for personal gain. All in all, the only way to truly know you are helping the causes you are passionate about is donating to respected organizations such as UNICEF and the Red Cross.