Have you ever wondered if your favorite celebrities, influencers, or even your friends bought followers on Instagram? You're about to find out. Instagram announced today that it will be taking a huge step to eliminate inauthentic followers, likes, and comments on its platform.
It's not uncommon for influencers to buy followers or using third-party apps to boost their engagement. Instagram believes this negatively impacts users' experiences. If you see someone follow you or engage with your content, you're likely to check them out and do the same. This reciprocity is how third-party apps boost account popularity. Instagram has made attempts to reduce bot activity in the past. One of the more popular services Instagress was shut down by Instagram last year.
If you've ever received an out of place, emoji-only response to one of your photos or been followed and then unfollowed by someone, there's a chance it was a third-party app attempting to increase engagement for that account. "Recently, we've seen accounts use third-party apps to artificially grow their audience," Instagram said in a statement. "Every day people come to Instagram to have real experiences, including genuine interactions. It is our responsibility to ensure these experiences aren't disrupted by inauthentic activity."
The inauthentic follower and engagement purge begins today. Using machine learning, Instagram aims to identify and remove the fake followers, likes, and comments. Accounts identified as using these services will receive an in-app message alerting them that Instagram has removed any likes, followers, and comments given by their account to others. "These third-party apps often gain likes and follows by inauthentically liking and following other posts and accounts. Therefore, some people who don’t use these apps may also potentially see a change in likes and followers if third-party apps engage with the account," an Instagram spokesperson told Refinery29. "It’s important to note we will start removing inauthentic engagement from Monday afternoon on – past activity will not be affected." So, even if you haven't used a third-party app, you could see your follower count, comments, or likes effected because accounts using third-party services might have engaged with you on Instagram.
Instagram's decision is, in part, influenced by the desire to keep the platform secure. Most third-party apps require that you share your password whether the app is just for analyzing your follower base or for helping you increase engagement. The more places you share your password, the less secure your account is. The less secure each individual account is, the less secure Instagram is as a platform.
"We’ve done work in the past to resolve inauthentic interactions on the platform, but this is the first time we are removing inauthentic activity from real accounts and sending an in-app message to the community," explained the Instagram spokesperson. The platform has rid itself of bot accounts in the past, but this more deliberate effort to affect platform interactions in a big way.