My love-hate relationship with Instagram Infographics – Liberal Article
Over the past year, particularly following the tragic murder of George Floyd, there has been an uptake the sharing of ‘infographics’. These are aesthetically pleasing, “bitesize chunks” of information. These infographics attempt to disseminate a trending social issue. I am in no way against internet activism. Social media is an irreplaceable tool of change for the modern-day and has had some obvious benefits. I don’t know a single person that has not heard that 97% of women have experienced sexual harassment.
However, with the ongoing events in Israel/Palestine, I’ve seen a flood of Instagram infographics spreading misinformation – about both sides. Misinformation spreads quickly and is far-reaching. Whilst attempting to rightfully educate and inform people, infographics remove all nuance from any conversation. They in fact harm the people they are trying to help.
One which specifically comes to mind is the image of the Haredi Jew from the Neturei Karta Sect who supports the dismantling of the Israeli government and thus have aligned themselves with the Pro-Palestinian movement as a publicity stunt.
This example is by no means the only one. I think it is crucial to explain why this particular infographic of misinformation is so insulting, offensive, and infuriating for Jewish people.
There are around 5000 Netueri Karta Haredi Jews and they are described as being on the fringes of Judaism. Around 100 of them actively campaign for ‘Free Palestine’. There is a place for anti-Zionism in the Haredi community, but these particular images are not it. These men that are being heralded online, are not anti-racist or even remotely in support of the Palestinians’ cause. They believe that when there is the second coming of the Messiah, only then can Jewish people, and that is only Jewish people, populate greater Israel.
Oh, they are also holocaust deniers.
Imagine everyone posted about the Westboro Baptist Church because they are also anti-US foreign intervention. Then imagine the Westboro Baptist Church is held as the gold standard of Christians – absurd, I know.
I was originally going to write this article during the Sarah Everard protests and the huge revelations (for some) of how widespread sexual harassment is. Infographics are all too easy to share: people feel they can wipe their hands clean of any wrong-doings just by posting.
Many times I have seen men who I know to have been sexual assaulters and harassers themselves, “speak out about” behaviour that they themselves have participated in.
This made me feel pessimistic at best about the actual benefits of Instagram.
Infographics at best make news, scholarship, and academia more accessible to a wider audience and bring attention to issues that may not have grabbed the public’s attention otherwise.
However, since 86.1% of Instagram’s users are aged 44 and under and in the UK 49% of people aged 35 and below hold a degree, it is not a tall order to expect people to check the News for their news content, rather than social media.
There is the argument that the News does not cover or prioritise some of the vital headlines seen on Instagram – which is another article in itself.
The solution I’ll give is more fact-checking, which isn’t ‘cool’ or ‘innovative’ but is necessary. Inevitably there will be another spotlight on another issue. Another group of people will be furious about how their very real situations have been compressed, with no nuance, into digestible Instagram infographics.
Written by Junior Liberal Writer, Lucy Severn
Point of Information
Infographics are no more problematic than the mainstream media – A Labour Response
This article raises an interesting debate and I largely agree with the principle of Lucy’s argument. Just like the media and all sources of information, infographics should be critiqued and used responsibly. However, there are a few areas of the article that I would like to address.
Firstly, the sources used to describe the Netueri Karta Haredi Jews are the ADL and Jewish Virtual Library. Both my degrees have frequently brought me into contact with the latter which is run by AICE, an organisation striving to strengthen Israeli-American relations. The JVL supports Israeli settlements in the West Bank, condemns BDS as anti-Semitic, and promotes the Zionist narrative that Palestine was “sparsely populated” and “neglected” before Israeli settlement.
Likewise, whilst more left-leaning than the JVL, the ADL has demonstrated Israeli-sympathies through numerous statements. The accusation of Holocaust denial can be found in numerous pro-Israeli newspapers such as The Times of Israel, whereas several more left-leaning publications print interviews refuting this.
I don’t claim to be an expert on Judaism or its different sects in any way. However, this article is concerned with misinformation, inadequate sources, and a lack of balanced research. Only using sources from one perspective is always dangerous and inaccurate whether that is in mainstream or social media.
I understand Lucy’s point here but feel this was an unfortunate example as much of the mainstream media does not uphold a neutral or two-sided approach to Israel/Palestine.
Social media v mainstream media
I do not dispute the dangers and drawbacks of online activism. It can contribute to generalisation, trivialisation, and even memeification of important social, political and economic issues. It can also give rise to performative activism and virtue signalling. I wrote about this in relation to the murder of Breonna Taylor.
However, its impact cannot be dismissed. In the last month, Western public opinion about Israel/Palestine has seen a shift of increasing sympathies for Palestine as a result of constant coverage of the bombardment of Gaza through social media. Mainstream media has done nothing to contribute to this. Moreover, mainstream media is not necessarily more trustworthy, better researched, or less biased than social media.
I agree with the premise of this article: every source should be questioned, challenged, and compared to others. Infographics, just like newspapers, should be used with caution and should not be the only source of information.
However, they are more inclusive and accessible. Younger people who may not be politically engaged can access this. I do believe that critical thinking and understanding the bias of sources should be taught at school. This should be applied to both mainstream and social media.
Written by Senior Labour Writer, Zoë Olsen-Groome
Infographics: Valid opposition to political apathy or a dangerous tool for the complacent? – A Conservative Response
The content of Lucy’s article is intriguing to me. I believe that we largely stand on similar ground regarding the caution we must take before re-posting any infographic without source-checking.
After the 2016 Presidential Election, there were investigations by various organisations regarding the influence of Russia within the election. These organisations included the Senate and the FBI. Also academic operations, such as a collaboration between the University of Oxford and Graphika. These found that there were significant efforts made by the Russian state to impact American voters, ensuring a Trump victory.
This is a key example of why non-fact-checked content and infographics can be so damaging.
The Internet Research Agency was an organisation funded by Russian oligarch Prigozhin to influence the US electorate through social media. It capitalised on divisive issues such as racial equality with their most popular fake account being ‘Black Matters US”. This was one of many accounts which aimed to target black voters by encouraging them to ‘take a stand’ by boycotting the election or voting for a 3rd party candidate instead of Hillary Clinton, particularly in key swing states. Infographics entitled ‘Hillary for Prison’ or ‘A Vote For Jill Stein is Not a Wasted Vote’ were pushed as the main narrative.
Lack of fact-checking allowed IRA apathetic content of memes and ‘infographics’ on Instagram received over 185m likes and reached 126 million Facebook users. Although only a theory, some believe that swing states could have been lost due to IRA Instagram content.
Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan were lost by about 80,000 votes altogether, with 660,000 votes cast for 3rd party candidates. If only 12% of those votes were dissuaded by Russian propaganda from voting for Clinton, we could consider Trump’s victory the results of power of disinformation on social media.
Infographics can be very informative, and anything that helps to positively combat political apathy should be celebrated. However, I cannot express how important fact-checking is. False narratives with malicious intent can create a damaging distrust in politics itself.
Written by Guest Conservative Writer, Emily Sharman
I have just graduated with a History degree from the University of Exeter and am about to start my Masters there in Conflict, Security, and Development. I will also be taking on the roles of Welfare Officer in the Politics Society and Vice-President for Coppafeel’s Exeter Uni Boob Team.