Instagram recently sent a cease and desist demand to a site that sold fake likes and engagement on the platform, prompting the site to shut down in response, according to a person involved in the site and confirmation from Instagram.
The news shows Instagram's continued efforts to shut down inauthentic activity on its platform, including services that can be used by influencers or anyone else to amplify their own content.
"Sorry, LikeUp isn't working :(," a message on the impacted site, called LikeUp.Me, now reads. "This service will no longer work. Sorry. Refunds for the last month are being processed," the site continues.
Motherboard first learned of the cease and desist when Aleksey Bykhun, who appears to run LikeUp.Me, reached out via an email.
"I'm looking for a small consultation in answering to the C&D letter from Facebook," Bykhun wrote. Facebook owns Instagram.
Do you have any more information on the sale of fake social media engagement? We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, OTR chat on email@example.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously Instagram has sent cease and desist letters to members of the OG Users community, who sell or help facilitate the trade of stolen or parked usernames on the social network. Bykhun clarified he wasn't part of OG Users, and that his company didn't sell accounts.
Motherboard then found Bykhun was the CEO of LikeUp.Me, according to his personal website. On that, he claims LikeUp.Me generated around $100,000 in revenue in 2020.
The site appears to have used a Chrome extension which promises users free likes and followers and is also called LikeUp.
Bykhun seemingly blocked Motherboard on Telegram when asked for comment on LikeUp.Me.
A Facebook spokesperson told Motherboard in an email that Facebook sent a cease and desist to LikeUp.Me, that fake engagement violates the platform's rules, and that Facebook takes action against such companies when discovered.
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