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A company tricked the media into believing a fake migrant's journey on Instagram

According to the social news organization Storyful, a creative agency called Volga used Instagram to create the story of a migrant's travel from Senegal to Spain, proving once again that appearances are not always what they seem, on social media or otherwise. The Huffington Post UK reported on these Instagram posts as if they were based on a real story:

Thousands of social shares later, HuffPo's website notes an "update":

Show this to your youngest relative, student, or friend — and your oldest one, too. No one is safe from falling for an online hoax.

It seems that every media organization in the world has at some point published a story based on social media content (a tweet, Instagram, Facebook photo, or YouTube video) that was later revealed as fake or based on misleading information. What we see here, though, is pure performance art:

In the case of Volga's work, we cannot jump to the often-true conclusion that the work was of a malicious nature. Volga's project was specifically meant to portray the way the media confuses fact and fiction, narrative and truth (emphasis is mine):

The creative agency and production company Volga presents this years press campaign for the GETXOPHOTO photography exhibition.

Directed by the Barcelona studio Manson, this years campaign in formed of a 60 second video and linked Instagram account that acts as a reflection on the way we process and share images of displacement and migration, in established media and on social networks.

The piece is also a comment on how the use and importance of photography has changed radically in the last few years, with the image of travel inexorably linked to it’s ‘reality’. In this way photography is key to the social construct of ‘travel’ in a globalized society.

If this is true for industrial tourism — the endless search and sharing of 21st century takes on pastoral ideals — it applies equally to the increasing numbers of those who’s journeys are the result of necessity. Migrants and refugees, displaced by dictatorial regimes, the horrors of war and environmental and economic disasters.

If you want to see real stories of migrants, focus on well-known sources that are closer to the story, like Ed Kashi's Instagram series on racial profiling in Europe. The NPR Breaking News Consumer Handbook has other helpful tips, too, like comparing sources and not sharing information that you're not sure is true.

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