'Migrant' hoax: The selfies that fooled the internet
By Sam Judah / bbc.com

An Instagram account that appeared to belong to a migrant, documenting his route from Senegal to Europe, garnered thousands of followers and global media attention. Now, it transpires, the account was a fake. BBC Trending talks to the man who mocked it up.

The account, created in the name of Abdou Diouf from Dakar, started posting selfies last week, and claimed to chart his perilous route from Senegal to Europe. The pictures showed him smiling to the camera with his "#family", and getting a haircut ahead of his big trip.

His "journey" wasn't easy, though. A later picture purported to show him on a boat, in the dark. "The only way to cross, a small inflatable boat all night rowing. Really scared," the caption reads.

Eventually he appeared to reach land. "Finally the land os opportunities [sic]. We tired but happy. Very danger trip," writes "Diouf".

The account has built up more than 8,000 followers, and the comments on the photos prompted messages of derision from people who thought the journey was real. "FED UP WITH ALL YOU MILLIONS OF PEOPLE TRYING TO GET HERE, THERE IS NO PLACE FOR YOU HERE AND NO WORK, NO DREAM," said one. But plenty of commenters backed "Diouf" along the way. "Good luck bro, I wish u the best" and "may God make it easy for you," they wrote. News outlets across the web picked up on the story and reported it as genuine.

A handful of clues caused many to doubt its authenticity, however. For one thing, "Diouf" had a remarkable grip on which hashtags to use to promote his trip. Phrases like #Swag, #LovingLife, #InstaLovers and #IllegalDreamer appeared under all of his photos. And the name Abdou Diouf was borrowed from a former president of Senegal.

The account has now been revealed as a hoax by the photography blog Disphotic. It is actually an elaborate marketing campaign for a photography festival.

The man in the pictures appears to be a Spanish citizen called Hagi Toure, and all the images were shot within a few miles of the city by Tomas Pena, who was trying to promote the Getxophoto festival in northern Spain.

"We cast a bunch of people to appear in the campaign," Pena tells BBC Trending.

"It was kind of like Orson Welles' War of the Worlds," he says, referring to another famous media hoax, "but instead of using radio we used Instagram". The account was intended to make Europeans think about their attitudes towards migrants travelling to Europe from Africa, he continues. "We treat them like animals, and looking at the comments, there are some really racist comments. It's quite sad."

Though he intended to deceive people, Pena didn't think everyone would be fooled by the account. The unlikely hashtags were used on purpose. "We thought it was ironic to see him using hashtags like #RichKidsofInstagram."

Pena says Hagi Toure is actually a handball player who has lived in Barcelona for more than 10 years, and has a genuine Instagram account of his own.

3.3 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 34,320 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 12,117 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 9,465 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 3,451 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Why I Didn't Vote Trump or Hillary
Joe Brewer · 3,167 views today ·   This is my ballot. It arrived in the mail where I live in Washington state — and I’ve already sent it back to the elections committee. Note how I didn’t vote for either...
How Big Banks Launder Money and Get Away With It
9 min · 3,165 views today · 'I wrote about how money laundering was actually done... they spiked it.' Parliamentary Candidate David Malone was a popular second choice in the UK Green Party leadership...
Heartbreaking Animation Reveals Plight of Animals Under Threat of Extinction
3 min · 2,488 views today · This stunning and heartbreaking animation gives voice to animals under threat from human activity. Made as part of the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, it features a...
Three Massive Mergers - Millions for One Bank and a Disaster for Food, Water, and Climate
Wenonah Hauter · 2,411 views today · In addition to advising on all three mega-mergers, Credit Suisse is playing a big role behind the scenes of the Dakota Access pipeline.
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,693 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
A Beautiful Reflection on What It Means to Be Human
8 min · 1,626 views today · Hello! We are Oh Wonder, a musical duo from London. We believe that everyone is equal. We are all human. We all deserve the world. And we can build that equality by sharing...
Donald Trump Is the Mirror and Hillary Clinton Is the Mask
Chris Agnos · 1,144 views today · Disclaimer: I do not support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president. I think the scope of the political debate is far too narrow for the kinds of actions that need to...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 963 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 832 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 719 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 640 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 608 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
The Burden of the New Story
Adebayo Akomolafe · 483 views today · The 'new story' - that longed for milieu when all is right with the world and things are set straight - seems to be taking its sweet time coming. Why?
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 451 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 417 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
Planet Earth II Could Be Best Nature Doc Ever Made
3 min · 370 views today · 10 years ago Planet Earth changed our view of the world. Now we take you closer than ever before. This is life in all its wonder. This is Planet Earth II. A decade ago, the...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
'Migrant' hoax: The selfies that fooled the internet