Communities and Social Media

Fake online identities are the discrete criminals of the Instagram platform.


Fake online identities have been the main cause of misinformation in today’s world following the drastic changes in the digital culture. This paper assesses that fake online identities have the ability to mislead a community through politics, fake news, anonymity and authenticity within the Instagram platform. More analysis is also highlighted on the Generation Z’s approach to memes and the impact that fake identities have on the online football community. The pretentious approach engaged by fake online identities to dismantle a political agency has nonetheless been unethical and against the policy of a good governance. Such pretenders have put forward a mirror image of the society who wants to trust a false sense of the third space compared to the actual reality. Moreover, conspiracy theories often make the headlines and these become distressing for the society since it’s difficult to trust a reliable source of information online. Within the online football community, some fake online identities utterly fail to respect the person whom they target and thus, create a feeling of xenophobia among the community. Additional research have been made to counteract these fake online impersonations. 

Keywords: #fakeonlineidentities #instagram #politics #anonymity #authenticity #thirdspace

Social media has grown into becoming a communicative and collaborative platform,  through the emergence of Web 2.0 (Hampton, 2015). This type of modern platform enables individuals around the globe to conform to online communities. Such platform has also enabled users to obtain information on a daily basis without the traditional methods of news gathering (Hampton, 2015). As long as social media benefits the network of individuals on a long term basis, it unfortunately acknowledges the liability of authentic self and anonymity. Since digital culture has become easily accessible, the presence of fake identities has been largely envisaged (Krombholz et al., 2012). These pretenders act as real persons to lure other users’ perception on a given information. This indicates Instagram as being the forefront of the third space world whereby more and more fake accounts are being created to mislead information and invade privacy of active users (Graham et al., 2015). Furthermore, this paper argues that fake online identities have been a strong force in misleading a community within the areas of politics, incidental news, authenticity and the football pyramid. 

Political Instability

The significant rise of fake online identities within the digital era has been advocated towards political instability. With this in mind, some modes of gathering information have been considered as fake and politically incorrect towards a government organisation (Allcott et al., 2019). The online community is heavily influenced by online news as it has become one of the easiest and quickest way to obtain articles regarding a given matter. Considerably, fake profiles are created to target an audience who are politically envisioned and who are attached to a political party (Allcott et al., 2019). These fake identities are often associated to mislead the online community about elections through the spreading of fake news towards a governmental alliance. The pretentious approach to gather followers under the basis of a political agenda, has been more or less deemed as unethical for online journalism since such means of news sharing are often anonymous while having the ability to manipulate the mindset of people (Dawes, 2013). The population becomes the ‘bait’ of politics as they are trapped within the sensationalism of fake political news. In order to gain audience interactions, fake news become the main headlines with an increase number of likes, shares and followings (Mena et al., 2020). For instance, investigations conducted by the US Congress into the spread of misinformation and propaganda during the 2016 presidential election revealed that approximately 20 million Instagram users in the United States were reached by fake accounts created by Russian sources (Mena et al., 2020). As a result, they fail to properly inform the right audience but rightly address the wrong audience. The online community lamentably endorses a certain trust towards these news as most of them believe the counterfeit facts rather than the reality. Government organisations need to enhance their mode of news distribution in order to avoid any condemnations due to anonymity. This proves that fake online identities have the freedom to control some part of the third space methodology which could in turn gather the wrong sets of audiences towards political bias instead of having political opinions, often leading to misinformation. 

Incidental News

Concisely, fake online identities have adopted a new way to gain the audience attention through incidental news (Boczkowski et al., 2018). News present across social media platforms are an unprecedented approach to accumulate various online audiences of all ages to consume news articles. By this means, some fake pages found on Instagram have been able to seize the audience’s curiosity towards sensitive news such as the COVID-19 in order to create a certain image on the people’s mind (Ali, 2020). These include the sensation of trendy news headline to capture those who frequently surf the web to look for information that interest them and not the other way round. That is, it is not regarded as a news article that is trying to reach its audience but rather the latter who wants to quench their thirst for a news material to be displayed in front of them (Boczkowski et al., 2018). Following the pandemic, several news articles have made the headline within seconds of publishing online. The engagement on the viral information prompted active users to know more about the virus whereby they were being exposed with fake news from fake Instagram pages (Cinelli et al., 2020). While some news highlighted conspiracy theories regarding the origin of the virus, some were misinforming the active online community concerning the number of cases arising. As a consequence, this clarifies that anonymity come in different forms and shapes (Larsson et al., 2012). Despite that the World Health Organisation (WHO) cautioned the population about disinformation, this can still hinder people’s perception on the matter as it becomes difficult to find a credible source of information online (Ali, 2020). This unfortunately distresses a society since fake online identities publish news that appear authentic to the general public. A more concise approach on the matter needs to be applied to control the implication of incidental news across social media platforms. 

Generation Z and Authenticity 

Aside its interactiveness, Instagram has been an underlying tool in negatively influencing teenagers’ authenticity through the involvement of fake profiles. Due to their growing interest of the online world, the Generation Z appeals for more engagement from their followers to have a better grasp of their online identity (Goodyear et al., 2018). Nonetheless, some youngsters feel the need to develop fake online identities, also known as Finsta (Fake Instagram) in order to feel better about themselves in terms of self confidence and self-esteem. The statement made by Charoensukmongkol (2017) demonstrates that the younger online community do depend on the amount of likes they receive and the opinions of others to uphold an evaluation. These have unfortunately encouraged them to falsify their online identity upon the belief that this technique will help them acquire more followers to their platform. This misinformed the younger generation who are in a growing phase. Consequently, the wrong interpretation of social acceptance over the online community has done less in helping those who are psychologically prone to the fake online personality that they project to others. To an extent, the depiction of many celebrities has caused a downturn in the online world, with the definition of “flawlessness” being questioned (Ouvrein et al., 2018). For instance, a teenager may perpetuate his or her favourite public figure’s footprint in order to seek social acceptance among his or her followers. The fake impersonation being made through the inclusion of a fake profile explains a lot about the online community and its repercussion it has on an adolescent’s lifestyle. Evidently, this assesses the way Instagram’s algorithm operates to standardise the viewer’s experience yet has been unsuccessful in tackling the main issue. 

A Community of Memes

Subsequently, memes have become a trending element in today’s world questioning both anonymity and authenticity of the younger public sphere on the Instagram platform. Memes have somewhat become a humorous way of exchanging a message through the inclusion of digital pictures and texts (Marwick, 2013). However, it is usually the vulnerable people who are prone to face toxicity in the meme world by fake online identities, such those discrimination towards the lower classes or ethnic minorities, racism, sexism and even body shaming. One can therefore make out that the same group of people who tend to be victimised in the real world, are the same ones that are targeted in memes based discrimination, camouflaged as what is currently known as “dark humour” (Neuendorf et al., 2014). As a result, this can have a negative impact on a community or a person’s cultural identity. While memes may project some sense of humour, it can be a terrible means at invading the privacy of a person as well. Fake identities, being mostly anonymous, have made this form of content creation a pivotal aspect at targeting the younger community who are now more exposed with memes. The aspect of memes as a form of freedom of expression within the Instagram platform has by far triggered many individuals’ point of views on different topics (Reade, 2020). As such, it has reached a whole new level of morality within the online community to perceive topics like sexism or even body shaming as something enjoyable rather than regarding it as a serious issue. These misinformed instances can unfortunately instil wrong beliefs or messages in the mindset of the general audience. To another perspective, memes are building a community of essentialism, stereotyping and prejudices which can have severe consequences on a society’s growth. Instagram should therefore have a better acknowledgement in tackling such issue given that the platform helps in publishing user generated contents. 

The football pyramid

From this point onwards, the football community has also been affected by the various incrimination of fake online identities. Instagram, being a focal point of this discussion, entails different aspects of being an online football fan, both positively and negatively. Nevertheless, the negative aspects somehow outweighs the positive as footballers have been mostly subjected to racism within the online world (Kilvington & Price, 2017). The involvement of fake online identities has been largely the main recipient at invoking racist messages to the targeted footballers. For example, in 2017, the Manchester City star, Raheem Sterling, has received racist abuses on his Instagram following his performance on the pitch (Kilvington & Price, 2017). This symbolises that racism on the online platform is still increasing and causing more damage to the player’s identity and is hardly benefitting the targeted player. These cases of racism are an alarming issue to be raised in the community be it online or offline since anyone’s reputation can be at stake. This further contributes to the demeaning factor of the digital world contemplating fake identities. In addition to the above, some supporters are also concerned by this matter but often degenerate to detect the main root. As a whole, the football community is heavily impacted by xenophobia and the existence of fake online identities often makes it hard to uncover who are behind this plight. From this point onwards, Instagram has encouraged the mere specimen the freedom of creating fake identities, impacting the public sphere at large. 

The tool to reduce Fake Identities

The Instagram algorithm, though has its downsides, has favourably its merits in tackling the issue of fake online identities. Self harm on such social platform has gained surface ever since fake profiles paved their way to the online world, affecting an individual’s mindset (Scherr et al., 2019). Instagram, being the most used social networking site, has often effectively dealt with these scenarios in order to reduce the number of interactions engaged by online pretenders. Presenting an authentic self within the digital era can sometimes challenge the profiling algorithm to distinguish the fake from the real or vice versa since falsifying online identities has been normalised by many users (Scherr et al., 2019). As a matter of fact, the digital tool has given the online community the freedom to report fake accounts to make it easier for the algorithm to detect and thus, reducing fake accounts which has somehow lead to misinformation. However, the online community still need to be aware about the proper functions of the Instagram platform so that they can collaborate with the mechanism to further help in dealing with the matter in hand more efficiently given the large amount of users present online. 


In the online world, Instagram has undoubtedly benefitted a network of individuals but has at times failed to properly address its audience with factual news. This has been the case as fake online identities have the freedom to misinform its online audience for the basis of audience interaction. It can be for political reasons or for important social issues. The public sphere has been heavily impacted with misinformation and only reporting the fake accounts will not necessarily tackle the issue as hundreds of thousands of fake online identities are being created almost everyday. A potential stricter law may be implemented by the social media platform to be able to cease the creation of fake accounts. A sense of censorship should also be encompassed to properly inform the online community concerning sensitive topics. On top of that, a better education approach based on social media needs to be put forward to provide the younger generation with much knowledge on the topic. 

Reference lists: 

Ali, S. (2020). Combatting Against Covid-19 & Misinformation: A Systematic Review. Human Arenas.

Allcott, H., Gentzkow, M., & Yu, C. (2019). Trends in the diffusion of misinformation on social media. Research & Politics, 6(2), 205316801984855.

Boczkowski, P., Mitchelstein, E., & Matassi, M. (2018). “News comes across when I’m in a moment of leisure”: Understanding the practices of incidental news consumption on social media. New Media & Society, 20(10), 3523-3539.

Charoensukmongkol, P. (2017). The Impact of Social Media on Social Comparison and Envy in Teenagers: The Moderating Role of the Parent Comparing Children and In-group Competition among Friends. Journal Of Child And Family Studies, 27(1), 69-79.

Cinelli, M., Quattrociocchi, W., Galeazzi, A., Valensise, C., Brugnoli, E., & Schmidt, A. et al. (2020). The COVID-19 social media infodemic. Scientific Reports, 10(1).

Dawes, S. (2013). Press Freedom, Privacy and The Public Sphere. Journalism Studies, 15(1), 17-32.

Goodyear, V., Armour, K., & Wood, H. (2018). Young people and their engagement with health-related social media: new perspectives. Sport, Education And Society, 24(7), 673-688.

Graham, T., Jackson, D., & Wright, S. (2015). From everyday conversation to political action: Talking austerity in online ‘third spaces’. European Journal Of Communication, 30(6), 648-665.

Hampton, K. (2015). Persistent and Pervasive Community: New Communication Technologies and the Future of Community. American Behavioral Scientist, 60(1), 101-124.

Kilvington, D., & Price, J. (2017). Tackling Social Media Abuse? Critically Assessing English Football’s Response to Online Racism. Communication & Sport, 7(1), 64-79.

Krombholz, K., Merkl, D., & Weippl, E. (2012). Fake identities in social media: A case study on the sustainability of the Facebook business model. Journal Of Service Science Research, 4(2), 175-212.

Larsson, S., Svensson, M., de Kaminski, M., Rönkkö, K., & Alkan Olsson, J. (2012). Law, norms, piracy and online anonymity. Journal Of Research In Interactive Marketing, 6(4), 260-280.

Marwick, A. (2013). Memes. SAGE Journals, 12(4), 12-13. doi:

Mena, P., Barbe, D., & Chan-Olmsted, S. (2020). Misinformation on Instagram: The Impact of Trusted Endorsements on Message Credibility. Social Media + Society, 6(2), 205630512093510.

Ouvrein, G., De Backer, C., & Vandebosch, H. (2018). Online celebrity aggression: A combination of low empathy and high moral disengagement? The relationship between empathy and moral disengagement and adolescents’ online celebrity aggression. Computers In Human Behavior, 89, 61-69.

Reade, J. (2020). Keeping it raw on the ‘gram: Authenticity, relatability and digital intimacy in fitness cultures on Instagram. New Media & Society, 23(3), 535-553.

Scherr, S., Arendt, F., Frissen, T., & Oramas M, J. (2020). Detecting Intentional Self-Harm on Instagram: Development, Testing, and Validation of an Automatic Image-Recognition Algorithm to Discover Cutting-Related Posts. Social Science Computer Review, 38(6), 673–685.

24 thoughts on “Fake online identities are the discrete criminals of the Instagram platform.

  1. Hey Yashveer! That’s a really interesting paper! Instagram is maybe one of the most popular platform where you can indeed get a lot of fake identities. Its popularity has peaked where a lot of dark side are slowing coming out in the open. Do you think that there may be a way to counter these?

    1. Hello Maddie.

      Thank you for reading my paper and taking the time to provide a constructive feedback.

      I believe there needs to be a much better security system in tackling such issue. Instagram should therefore take the aspect of authenticity more into consideration to avoid any spamming or scamming within the online world. Instagram is designed to be a platform only to connect individuals in order to form a healthy community and should not spread fake information from fake online identities. Subsequently, online users should have a more open minded approach when facing different kind of information online and develop a different mindset that not all information present on the Internet is realistic.

  2. Hi Divesh,
    your paper has really opened my eyes to fake online identities, indeed Instagram is one of the most used social media platforms and it is also a platform where people are more prone to get trapped by fake online identities.
    Best regards,

    1. Hello Jensee.

      First of all, I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my paper and providing a positive feedback.
      Given its fast development in the online world, Instagram has unfortunately become a new pattern for fake online identities and even online bots. Henceforth, I believe that Instagram should potentially reinforce its security system in order to protect its millions of users.

  3. Hello Divesh,
    I appreciate your take on this important issue which is becoming more and more rampant these days. Online fake identities are a real threat and this topic definitely need to be explored and broken down more in detail, just like you did, to have a better insight on how to deal with it.

    1. Hello Yashika.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my paper and providing a positive feedback.

      Such exploration needs to provide a broad understanding on how Instagram should effectively deal with the presence of fake identities which are proving to be an online threat regarding many causes.

  4. Hi Divesh! I hope you are doing well!
    First of all, thank you for this informative piece of writing and you did a good analysis of your topic!
    I really liked the way you implemented different aspects pertaining to the topic being discussed (Politics, memes etc..)
    However, to what extent do you think presenting an authentic self online will help to reduce fake profiles online? Do you think that Instagram must reinforce their way of tackling with fake profiles? and how?

    If you are interested about identity and online advocacy, check out my paper: Instagram used as a tool by influencers to perform an “authentic” persona among users.
    Here is the link:

    Overall good job Divesh!!
    Take care!

    1. Hello Lakshana.

      Thank you for taking the time off your schedule to read my paper and providing a constructive feedback.

      Presenting an authentic self will avail in determining the true identity of an online individual. On top of that, authenticity contributes to a more real aspect of the online world rather than fakery.

      I do believe that Instagram must reinforce its means of tackling such issue since the presence of fake identities has taken a surge recently, especially following the pandemic. Online protocols should be reconsidered at a global level to also acknowledge the risks associated with online bots and better manage fake identities. Instagram should incorporate a legitimate security system to adopt a stricter policy when it comes to the creation of fake online identities. Such platform could eventually bring more light regarding this issue on the long term basis while coming up with adequate solutions.

      I’ll definitely have a look at your paper Lakshana. Thank you for sharing this interesting topic.

  5. Hi Divesh,
    Thank you very much for presenting a well structured work with details about fake online identity. I really like the part where you mentioned about fake profiles which are thus, created to mislead the online community just because of elections by spreading fake news on a political party. One should always think carefully before spreading fake news because this can definitely affect the other person. I really appreciate the fact that you have presented each and every details about fake identity, it is very alarming issue that is happening in our society that could destroy the image of an individual. I think the way memes are presented nowadays should be taken into consideration because at times they can lead to discrimination issues and body shaming people which is not fair at all.

    1. Hello Tiloshna.

      Thank you for taking the time to read my paper and give a constructive feedback.
      The presence of fake identities on the online platforms seems to be inevitable with the Internet age growing even more each year, gathering more and more users online. Therefore, it becomes even more challenging for the Instagram algorithm to track down fake profiles. Hopefully, the needful will be done in terms of cyber policy and online security in the long run to be able to locate these accounts. As for memes, it should only be used for entertainment purposes and should be avoided to cause body shaming or any form of discrimination.

  6. Hi Divesh,
    This paper has been very insightful, fake identities are enveloping the social media world and it has become even harder to differentiate between what is fake and real. There are even more reasons why people create fake accounts aside for self confidence and self-esteem:
    – to eavesdrop relatives, partners and friends
    – steal bank details from people, loan sharks
    – make bots/ghost followers to boost up follower/like counts
    Information plays an important role in the societal peace, one should use it with responsibility. Do you agree that the process of creating an account should be reviewed?

    1. Hello Ignesh.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my paper and providing a constructive feedback. I completely agree with your points here because unfortunately fake online identities are being created for numerous reasons and sometimes come up with different strategies to manipulate a community.

      I will certainly agree that the process of fake online creation should be further reviewed. This is due to the fact that anonymity and authenticity can be a problem for a business as well. Fake identities can be in the form of online scammers whereby they lure people to buy products of their choices in view of a business approach. This can fall in money laundering and the person’s personal details will be certainly at risk. Being misinformed through scamming can be a demeaning cause for the victim as well as for a business. It will be difficult for online users to trust an online business as a result of fear for online scammers.

      Potentially and hopefully, platforms like Instagram will be able to review these cases soon, further initiating a proper solution to the matter in hand.

  7. Hey divesh,
    Very insightful work
    It is indeed unfortunate that in this dynamic era where we should be using social media to evolve, we are actually evolving backwards! Fake social media identities are increasingly becoming a threat to social media users. Targeting people through all the mediums you mentionned is a sheer act of blatant human hate according to me. Needless to say, instagram needs to take stringent actions and widen its security resources.

    1. Hello Shivany.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my piece of writing. You are completely right on the points you’ve mentioned. Some online individuals have seemed to prosper more ‘hate’ upon others rather spreading positivity in this materialistic world.

  8. Hi Divesh,
    your paper was a very informative one concerning fake profiles and how the use fake identities are proving to have negative impacts on several areas as mentionned in your paper. I loved how you went quite deep into each factor and this has helped me increased my knowledge about certain things about how these fake profiles actually work and their impacts. I think Instagram itself must do regular controls on these fake profiles in order to have a better social media experience. However, this can be a very complex thing to do. what do you think?

    1. Hello Vinanda.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my paper and providing a positive feedback.

      It will surely be a complexity to tackle such profiling algorithm given the engrossing number of active users present on Instagram. As such, the platform will need to make use of advanced technology such as blockchain to be able to locate and control the amount of fake profiles being created. Hopefully, this will be put forward soon in order to also cease the propagation of fake information online.

  9. Hello Divesh,

    Very good structure! I totally agree on your points where fake accounts, fake news and advertising frauds are disrupting the online community. However, Instagram’s algorithm or educating online users would not change the situation!
    Most of the fake profiles out there are created for a specific reason and as long as we are going to live on the Centralised platforms (Facebook, Instagram, or the State) we will not be able to tackle the issue. This is one of two downsides of the Internet.

    There is only one way to stop fake profiles and have a look :

    This is revolution.

    Awaiting your response.


    1. Hello Avneesh.

      Thank you so much for your comment. I understand your point of view and thank you for sharing this insightful article with me. As a matter of fact, even some hackers disguise themselves as fake online identities or online bots since they continue to come up with different ways to steal online users’ information given their advanced knowledge of the digital algorithm. So, the need to reinforce social media platforms’ security system should be further envisaged to reassure the privacy of online users. Perhaps, blockchain will be able to tackle this issue within 3 to 5 years time. However, we need to face the mere fact that once we log in online we are more prone to invasion of privacy as almost nothing is ‘private’ within the digital world.

      On the other hand, education can be the base alternative to consider when it comes to acknowledging sensitive topics like racism and so on. For instance, despite the football world has made active campaigns like “No room for racism” among others, some footballers are still victims of stereotyping while some face deliberate cases of prejudice and this is unfortunately an alarming issue. The world need to experience a whole new contrast on football. People cannot focus its aim towards the game and become essentialist, prejudice or stereotype based on certain beliefs.

      Living in this materialistic world, I believe that people are being careless when they post something online. Rather than assuming certain ‘cliché’, the population need to recognise the importance of humanity, that is, respect, to inculcate disciplinary and moral values, spreading peace and love. On a global level, developing these principles will further benefit the purpose of understanding different communities. Up to this point, mankind will become more mature and more open-minded towards these topics.

  10. Great piece of work. Well detailed and very informative. Instagram is a real boon but only when it’s used in the proper way. The biggest misuse of this platform is well and truly identity theft and misinformation. I believe this piece of writing should be made available to more people, especially to users of the platform as it can a real eye-opener to them.

    1. Hello Nikhil.

      Thank you so much for your positive feedback. I’m glad that you’ve appreciated my piece of writing. I certainly agree with your points here. Instagram, the epitome of a modern social media platform, can be wrongly used by many online individuals when their motives are inappropriate and sometimes even against the law, regarding the invasion of privacy as well.

  11. Hey Divesh,
    Thank you for this piece of work. It was a great pleasure to read on how the Instagram platform actually fosters criminals through the creation of fake profiles to harm other individuals. Being an Instagram user myself, I am disgusted upon finding fake profiles spreading fake news with the intention of causing harm. Being blessed with social networking platforms, I do find it inappropriate to take them for granted when we can actually use them for good causes. Do you think one day fake profiles will be severely taken into consideration and platform such as Instagram will make use of authenticity claims to stop the spreading of the latter?

    1. Hello Temul.

      Thank you for your feedback. Indeed, it’s quite intriguing the way fake profiles have taken the online world by being discrete in how they approach their ‘victims’ in terms of fake news or even the invasion of privacy.

      Coming to your question, I do believe that the presence of fake online identities should be taken into consideration given the rapid development in technology. With this being said, perhaps a legitimate security association needs to apply stricter rules to the way people use social media platforms so that they will be able to display their true identity while preserving their personal information. The solution in halting the amalgamation of fake identities should be further put forward in order to avoid feeding a generation with fakery and a certain level of authenticity should be respected. If they are constantly being exposed with fake information, there will be a future generation who will only avail in assumptions instead of envisioning about the truth.

  12. Hello Yashveer, Thank you for this informative piece of work. Instagram is really one of the most used social media platforms. I really like your paragraph on Incidental news. I have also written on Instagram and Fake identities therefore what you have included, actually is providing me with more information.

    1. Hello Chitrakshi.

      Thank you so much for your feedback and I’m glad that this paper has been insightful to you. Even I have learned a lot about fake identities through researches and I have found that it seriously needs to be addressed regarding its impact on the online community. Looking forward to read your paper as well.

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