Most people are probably guilty of underestimating the power of Instagram. After all, it’s one of the biggest and most popular social media platforms around today.
The truth is that even people who don’t use Instagram regularly can’t escape its allure. The quirky little app is constantly at the center of everyone’s news feeds, and it often shows up in people’s conversation circles as well.
With over a billion users, it would be a crime not to pay attention to what happens on the platform. But just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s always the best thing for you.
In fact, when it comes to criminal legal cases, the verdict is in: Instagram is causing a lot of problems for people. Or, more accurately, the platform is making it easier for people to be targeted by the legal system.
In this article, we’ll explore the impact that Instagram is currently having on the legal system and what you can do about it. We’ll also discuss various ways that you can protect yourself on the platform.
The Epidemic of Instagram-Induced Legal Problems
In recent years, there has been an uptick in the number of people experiencing problems with the law because of their involvement with Instagram.
If you’re reading this, then it’s a good bet that you’re one of them. The reality is that people are being arrested and prosecuted every day for crimes they didn’t commit simply because they were influenced or persuaded to commit them via a photo on Instagram.
This epidemic is being fueled by law enforcement and the courts. More and more often, police are looking for people to arrest and prosecute for crimes that were committed due to a viral online trend. And, as you’d imagine, the easiest way to find these people is to look on social media.
Consider the case of Markeisha Grant. She and a friend were arrested in Brooklyn, New York, in April 2019 for allegedly robbing a 76-year-old woman of $150 worth of personal items. The alleged crime? The women were accused of stealing the woman’s handbag because it matched the style of a photo on Grant’s Instagram account. In the photo, the handbag is on a navy blue sofa with white accessories. It’s an incredibly simple yet effective piece of tailoring that made the photo go viral. The women were then charged with a hate crime and robbery.
This isn’t a one-off incident. Across the country, judges and prosecutors are finding it easier to bring criminal charges against people who are using social media to influence others to commit crimes. They cite as evidence the ease with which people can disseminate fake news on social media and how this has made it easier for people to be influenced by it.
Why do prosecutors pursue these cases?
There are a number of reasons why prosecutors pursue these cases. Chief among them is the sheer volume of these types of cases. With the proliferation of social media, it is now possible to track the online influence of an individual almost immediately. This makes it much easier for prosecutors to prove that someone committed a crime because of something they saw online.
Additionally, the fact that many of these cases can be traced back to social media makes them easy targets for prosecution. In most cases, the individuals being prosecuted did not physically interact with the victims of their alleged crimes. This makes it more difficult to prove that they committed a crime. However, the fact that so many of these crimes can be linked to online influencers means that there is often little that the defendants can do to defend themselves.
Lastly, many of these cases appear to be motivated by a combination of factors. There is often a financial incentive for prosecutors. This can be a result of expensive investigations or it can simply be that the defendant’s social media accounts are a goldmine for the prosecution. In either case, this is an easy way to make money off defendants who have already been arrested for a crime they did not commit.
These cases are definitely motivating factors. However, there is also a clear trend toward more and more criminal charges being filed against people who are simply using social media to influence others to commit crimes.
How can I protect myself from being influenced by crime-related content on social media?
While we’d all like to believe that the information we get on social media is completely objective and unbiased, the reality is that there is often a financial incentive for the platforms to promote whatever they are selling. Additionally, there is often a clear bias in content that is being disseminated via social media.
This is especially true when it comes to news content. Consider the New York Times story about Grant and her friend that was just a few weeks ago. It’s a perfect example of how the media behaves when it comes to exploiting trends for clicks and how much this compromises their integrity. It starts out by recounting the story of Markeisha Grant’s arrest, noting that she and a friend were arrested for robbing a person because of a handbag that they stole “because it matched the style of a photo they saw on Instagram.”
If you click on the link, you’ll find yourself on the Times’ website. Notice how this story has over 400 shares on social media and how many people are discussing it. Now consider all of the other stories on the Times’ website. Notice anything odd about them?
If you’re reading this, then it’s a good bet that you’re already aware that the Times’ content is being distributed via social media. But did you know that these articles are often promoted via social networks as well? Consider the case of Megan Jayne Crabbe. She was a 24-year-old Australian woman who went by the online handle @MsCrabbeMegan. As it happens, Crabbe’s Instagram contained a number of photos of herself in various stages of undress. One of the photos in particular was exceptionally bizarre. It showed Crabbe in a tiger costume with a spider web attached to her body.
It seems that someone noticed this photo and started a rumor that Crabbe was going to expose herself to Instagram users for $500. This supposedly led to her making a big bucket of money from clients who wanted to engage with her for a private shaming session.
Naturally, this wasn’t true. However, it didn’t stop people from engaging with Crabbe’s account. In fact, shortly before her death, Crabbe averaged about 150 daily interactions on her Instagram account. Naturally, this made her a prime target for suicide tweeters. But before she killed herself, Crabbe took to social media to warn people about the rumors and to let them know that she was unaware of what was being said about her.
In general, it’s a good idea to be skeptical of everything you read on social media. Even if the content seems to come from a legitimate source, it can still be entirely fake. This is why it’s crucial to validate any information you get on social media. Make sure to cross-check it against multiple sources. And if you ever notice that a post is going viral, it can be a good idea to take a closer look at why this is the case.
What else can I do to protect myself from being influenced by crime-related content on social media?
There are a number of things that you can do to protect yourself from being influenced by crime-related content on social media. Chief among them is to unfollow accounts that you know are connected to or inspired by crime.
One important thing to keep in mind is that, while we are all tempted by the quick fame that comes with a highly followed Instagram account, this platform is potentially dangerous to your well-being. Remember that a big portion of the population follows these accounts, so it is always going to be easy for someone to find you if they want to influence you.
This is why it is important to protect your privacy and not to provide your personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust. Avoid sharing your personal details and locations online and, when necessary, use different passwords for various accounts to ensure your privacy.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that social media can be used to harm as well as help you. Indeed, many people have used social media to spread hate and harmful rumors about others.