Sudan is a war zone,with the mortality of its citizens being reported to be over 400 000 since the war started; and and most citizens still in refugee camps in other countries. Accounts have appeared on Instagram promising to send food to desperate Sudanese children in return for follows and shares, but few have been able to substantiate their pledges.
Accounts on social media sites are springing up to take advantage of the Sudan crisis in a bid to accumulate followers and also potentially solicit money.
On Instagram, Woke Owl came across several accounts using the name ‘Sudan Meal Project’ claiming that they were in a position to donate hundreds of thousands of meals to people in Sudan.
The largest account, with more than 390,000 followers, claimed: “For every person who follows and shares this on their story we will provide one meal to starving Sudanese children.”
The Sudan Meal Project on Instagram was able to garner more than 1.7 million likes and thousands of shares before online users became suspicious that the account had no website and was not identifiable in any way that can verify it as an official charity.
When one user contacted the Sudan Meal Project their response was: “I am sorry I just wanted followers.”
Other accounts using similar names have garnered thousands of followers and all are claiming to do the same thing.
Woke Owl tried to contact several of these fake accounts that claimed to be helping Sudanese children but did not get a single response.
When another social media user asked for proof that money was reaching the needy, Sudan Meal Project responded: “We didn’t realise would grow so fast…we are currently thinking of a new plan to raise money.”
Additionally, it was unclear how an unregistered organisation could have the capacity to ship food to Sudan at a time when many aid organisations including the United Nations have left the country.
In a bid to increase social media traction, which includes shares and likes, some accounts are taking advantage of concerned members of the Sudanese community who are seeking to help.
Fake accounts that aim to exploit people’s desire to help also create suspicion about other legitimate charitable projects.
Instagram accounts with large followings at a later date can monetise their presence by promoting products or being paid to promote other social media users’ content.
The ongoing media blackout in Sudan has resulted in a dearth of information as the country continues to reel from the fall of Omar al Bashir, who clung to power for more than 25 years.
The Transitional Military Council (TMC) in Sudan, which took over from Bashir, has faced calls to relinquish power to civilian authorities, which it has refused to do.
On June 3, when talks between protesters and the TMC collapsed, military men moved in to clear out the camps. The operation has left countless dead and injured, however, precise numbers are hard to come by given a lack of reliable information.
As a result of the military crackdown on protesters, social media users have turned their statuses blue in memory of Mohamed Mattar who was killed by the military and whose favourite colour was blue.