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Instagram clamps down on fake followers, ‘inauthentic activity’

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Brief:

  • Instagram is cracking down on users who use software to artificially increase their followers, likes and comments on their posts. The Facebook-owned app seeks to keep Instagram as “a vibrant community where people connect and share in authentic ways,” according to a blog post.
  • Instagram created a machine learning tool that can identify when accounts use third-party apps that generate inauthentic activity. Instagram will remove the fake activity and notify the user about the action. The app also will ask users to reset their passwords as an extra security precaution in case they unknowingly shared login details with third parties.
  • Third-party apps that generate inauthentic likes, follows and comments violate Instagram’s community guidelines and terms of use. Instagram, which has about 1 billion users worldwide, throughout its history has taken steps to autodetect and remove fake accounts, according to its blog.

Insight:

Instagram’s crackdown on bot-generated activity may help the image-sharing platform turned out to be more transparent to marketers who seek accurate information about real user activity to develop campaigns, assess trends and partner with influencers. Social networks have spawned a black market in fake followers that celebrities, businesses and social influencers can purchase to sway the perceptions of real users and advertisers looking to strike deals, which frequently include payment based on follower count and engagement. Brands continue to learn that before working with a social influencer on a marketing campaign, they need to properly vet those user numbers to ensure their accuracy.

As part of making its platform more transparent, Instagram in August began letting users that reach large audiences apply to have their accounts verified by submitting a copy of their legal or business identification for approval. Instagram also added an “About This Account” tool that lets users see more information about accounts that reach large audiences, including the date the account joined, the country of origin, accounts with shared followers, any username changes in the past year and all ads the account is currently running.

Instagram’s most recent action is part of a broader effort by parent company Facebook to clean up its social networking platforms from nefarious activities like misinformation-fueled campaigns aimed at influencing elections or creating civil strife. Instagram’s focus on image-sharing has made it comparably immune to the spreading of fake news, but spam and bot activity continue to degrade the user experience and stifle trust on the platform. While Instagram has claimed that spam accounts make up a small percentage of its user base, it may have had about 95 million bot accounts as recently as June.

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