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Sure, everyone loves a good millennial shaming, and yes, it’s pretty satisfying when corporate fraudsters get epically outed. But try to suspend your schadenfreude for just the moment. Because maybe you wouldn’t have spent thousands of dollars to swim with pigs or head bang to Blink182 on the beach, but the Fyre Festival ordeal reveals just how vulnerable all of us are to manipulation online, where a hashtag and a finely cropped image can cause us to lose all sense of caveat emptor.
Social media’s promise has always been its ability to connect anyone with a voice to a willing and eager audience. That’s been a potent driver of social change in recent years, leading to the rise of groups like Black Lives Matter. But it’s also led to the rise of dangerous alt-right conspiracy theories like Pizzagate, fake news websites like the Denver Guardian, and performance artists like Alex Jones posing as journalists. At a time when one website peddling pure fiction can look just as legitimate as another real one—and build just as large a social media following—it can take a lot longer for the audience to discover the emperor has no clothes (or luxury villas).