Internet celebs exploit 'Singapore boost'

Web celebrities like lelepons (above) and amandacerny (left) have been tagging their Instagram pictures' location as Singapore, even though elements in the photos suggest that is not the case. They are exploiting a bug in the media-sharing app to hel
Web celebrities like lelepons (above) and amandacerny have been tagging their Instagram pictures' location as Singapore, even though elements in the photos suggest that is not the case. They are exploiting a bug in the media-sharing app to help them net more views, likes and followers.PHOTOS: INSTAGRAM
Web celebrities like lelepons (above) and amandacerny (left) have been tagging their Instagram pictures' location as Singapore, even though elements in the photos suggest that is not the case. They are exploiting a bug in the media-sharing app to hel
Web celebrities like lelepons and amandacerny (above) have been tagging their Instagram pictures' location as Singapore, even though elements in the photos suggest that is not the case. They are exploiting a bug in the media-sharing app to help them net more views, likes and followers.PHOTOS: INSTAGRAM

Instagram celebrity Amanda Cerny steps out onto a road in the rain and starts dancing in a clip recorded and uploaded onto media-sharing app Instagram.

"Sunny vibes on a rainy day," reads its caption. Meanwhile, the video's geotag - where it was taken - says "Singapore, Singapore".

But the unfamiliar road markings and right-hand traffic suggest it was captured somewhere else.

"Is that actually at Singapore?" asks one of Ms Cerny's 10.5 million followers.

Over the past week, global followers of popular overseas-based Instagram stars have been left similarly puzzled. They noticed thousands of posts tagged as having been taken in Singapore even though the visuals clearly show they were taken overseas.

One Instagram celebrity even tagged a picture of himself in Disneyland in the US as "Singapore, Singapore". The geotag has since been removed after it was called out by followers.

These social-media stars have been exploiting a bug in the media-sharing app. Pictures and videos with a location tag set to "Singapore, Singapore" jump more easily to the top of the app's Explore section, netting them more views, likes and followers.

An Instagram spokesman confirmed the bug with The Straits Times, adding that the rankings of posts tagged with "Singapore, Singapore" were impacted. "We've now fixed the issue," he said.

But the spokesman would not elaborate on why the bug arose exclusively with posts tagged with "Singapore, Singapore", or how it helped boost such posts' visibility.

The "Singapore boost", as netizens have termed it, began a week ago when a few primarily United States-based Internet stars, such as Logan Paul, Dan Bilzerian and Ms Cerny, began tagging their posts with "Singapore, Singapore".

Dr Tracy Loh, a senior lecturer at the National University of Singapore communications and new media department, said it is only natural that Instagrammers would cash in on this to boost their profiles.

"It's like the app gave them a freebie of sorts or a boost to their popularity," she said.

"It's not exactly unethical but I do think it violates social norms with regard to fair play, and is misleading. Others might call you out for it and you run the risk of being seen as opportunistic."

Although Instagram has fixed the problem, it has not stopped other aspiring stars from continuing to tag their photos with "Singapore, Singapore".

They're still hoping to ride on anything that can potentially help them in their quest for social-media stardom.

A search for posts geotagged with "Singapore, Singapore" continues to throw up posts from all over the world, as well as memes and advertising pages.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2016, with the headline 'Internet celebs exploit 'S'pore boost''. Print Edition | Subscribe