Instagram as covert political propaganda tool
A while back my radar picked up an interesting initiative by an Israeli organisation, called Standwithus, describing itself as “the leading nationwide Israeli public diplomacy program”. Their stated aim is to ensure that “Israel’s side of the story is told”. They invited ten Instagram super users to visit Israel to take photos and post them, to a total of around 2 million Instagram users. Chances are you might have seen one or two of their photos yourself.
The photos posted show Israel as a sun-kissed country, with the happy Instagramers doing carefree “jumpstagrams” on the beach or sunbathing on a yacht. There aren’t a lot of photos of the locals but there are various photos with the country’s president gazing into an iPhone with a beaming smile. The message is clear: Israel is a nice country.
It’s political propaganda. We’ve talked about businesses exploiting Instagram to sell their products. Now we have Instagram being used as a political tool. Selling products and broadcasting political messages is fine but the same issue arises as with businesses. They should do it honestly. If super users exploit the Instagram platform to distribute sponsored photos to their users, they should make it clear they’ve been induced to do so. Some, but not all, of the users on this trip posted one photo announcing the trip (though some were later removed). The photos from the trip were given an unspecific tag #isrealhd. So many Instagram users may have received the photos but not realised they had been posted as part of, in the words of the US Code of Federal Regulations, a “material connection”.
Contrary to the Womma code of ethics, Instagram is being used by some users to covertly feed their followers with business, and now political, ads.
Political broadcasts on Instagram: be honest about it