Skip to main content

Instagram shuts down major meme account over coronavirus scam

A meme account with close to 14 million followers on Instagram was taken down by the social media company this weekend for perpetuating misinformation about the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.

The account, @bestmemes, posted images of fake tweets from President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama, according to the Daily Dot.

The identical fake messages stated: “Due to the coronavirus, if your state is currently under lockdown, you are eligible for $1,000 via @PayPal by completing the #StayAtHome survey. Stay strong everyone.”

The images also reportedly showed what looked like a PayPal account balance of $1,448.71, according to the report. Followers were then prompted to click on a link in @bestmeme’s bio, which took people to a three-question survey and asked for their email addresses.

By Sunday evening, Instagram had deleted the fake tweet images. The one featuring Obama reappeared and garnered thousands of likes before disappearing again, the Daily Dot reported. By this morning, Instagram had disabled the entire account.

Instagram did not immediately respond to a request from Digital Trends for comment, but this story will be updated when we hear back.

The posts appeared to reference the recently passed U.S. stimulus package that will send checks to Americans to help mitigate the economic impact of the virus. Federal law enforcement and state attorneys general have issued warnings to Americans about not sharing financial and personal information like bank account or Social Security numbers to anyone asking for them in order for them to receive a stimulus check.

There is no signup or form to fill out in order to receive this particular payment, which people should see in their bank accounts in about three weeks or later if a paper check needs to be mailed.

Instagram and other social media have cracked down on misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic. Instagram has also implemented a feature that brings up verified links to information about the virus whenever a user taps on a hashtag related to COVID-19.

Scams involving money transfer apps like PayPal and CashApp have also proliferated during the panic over the global lockdown, particularly after announcements of the federal stimulus checks, rampant layoffs of service workers, and stock market fluctuations.

Mythili Sampathkumar
Mythili is a freelance journalist based in New York. When not reporting about politics, foreign policy, entertainment, and…
Instagram’s newest feature will let you know when it does go down
Instagram login screen.

Instagram (and other Facebook services) suffered an extended outage last week that lasted multiple hours and briefly caused chaos across the internet, particularly in developing countries. Today, the company announced an update coming to its mobile app, letting users know when an outage is experienced.

This test is a U.S.-only one for the most part, and Facebook isn't making any promises that it'll make it permanent, only that it'll be evaluating the results and see if it makes sense to expand it in the future.

Read more
FDA approves saliva coronavirus test: Here’s what you need to know
coronavirus render stylized image

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization to a saliva-based testing method for the new coronavirus, a major step that could speed up testing for cases as the country grapples with the pandemic.

The method, named SalivaDirect and developed by Yale University, is cheaper and less invasive than swab tests while maintaining effectiveness. With the authorization, it is immediately available for diagnostic laboratories to use.

Read more
Lyft also threatens to shut down California operations over worker law
Lyft

Less than 24 hours after Uber threatened it would shut down its California operations over a new law that requires the company to classify drivers as employees, Lyft followed suit, saying that it would be forced to "suspend operations" in the state if the law isn't reversed.

In an earnings call Wednesday night, August 12, Lyft president John Zimmer said: "If our efforts here are not successful it would force us to suspend operations in California. Fortunately, California voters can make their voices heard by voting yes on Prop 22 in November."

Read more