• Reading Level 5
History | Art & Design | Citizenship | PSHE

Instagram ban for Love Island’s Molly-Mae

Are influencers undermining democracy? Molly-Mae is the latest to be censured for dishonest Instagram posts, yet more and more young people are turning to celebrities for information. It was a moment of high drama when the last couples on Love Island 2019 gathered to hear the winners announced – and it became even more dramatic when Molly-Mae Hague burst into tears. Although she had to settle for second place, Molly-Mae proved so popular with viewers that she has now 3.6 million followers on Instagram. But this week, she fell foul of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for promoting an online retailer without making it clear that she was being paid. Molly-Mae is not the first social influencer to be criticised by the ASA for dishonesty: others have included Made in Chelsea’s Louise Thompson and Millie Mackintosh. Nor are the concerns about such celebrities confined to advertising. As these celebrities’ influence grows, more members of the public turn to them for information rather than to traditional sources, such as newspapers, which are more concerned with establishing facts. Between 2009 and 2018, the proportion of teenagers from economically advanced countries who read newspapers fell from 60% to 20%. The recent fires in the Amazon rainforest showed how unreliable influencers can be. Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio and President Macron of France all posted misleading photographs – some of them dating from a previous year, and others showing the wrong forests. This meant that the Brazilian government, which had been accused of tackling the fires half-heartedly, could truthfully claim that its critics did not know what they were talking about. Not surprisingly, influencers tend to focus on dramatic news stories since these will attract the most followers. But for a society to work properly, it needs people who can hold government to account by probing into arguably less exciting topics (like a local council’s financial dealings), using writers and researchers with time, tenacity and a respect for facts. Celebrities can also be used to launder reputations. Last month, Armie HammerSofia Richie and Winnie Harlow all posted enthusiastically about an expenses-paid trip to a music festival in Saudi Arabia, despite the country’s terrible human-rights record. Is if fair to say that influencers are undermining democracy? Who do you trust? Yes, they are, say some. In a world flooded with fake news, we need people we can trust to give us reliable information. But influencers are not interested in rigorously checking their facts, and sometimes they whip up their followers without fully grasping an issue. A healthy democracy depends on proper news organisations – but as these lose revenue to social media, their resources become ever more limited. Don’t be so stuffy, say others. Young people are more discerning than they are given credit for. They know that influencers are paid a lot of money to promote products, and can lack a real understanding of politics, so audiences take such posts with a pinch of salt. They follow them for entertainment, not information: if they really want to know about an issue, they will turn to a proper news source. KeywordsPresident Macron - Emmanuel Macron was elected as president of France in 2017 aged 39.

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