For years, those hungry for online validation have bought fake likes, faves, or followers for every social media site imaginable. In exchange for a small sum, dozens of sketchy websites promise anywhere from a couple dozen likes on a single Instagram photo, to a million Twitter followers.
These sites make up a small cottage industry, operating on the fringes of the internet and in violation of social media sites' terms of service. But wannabe viral celebs no longer have to venture to the margins of the web to get their fix. At least not in Russia.
This vending machine—originally spotted by journalist Vasily Sonkin and posted to Twitter by his colleague Alexey Kovalev—lets you buy likes and followers right inside Okhotny Ryad shopping center in downtown Moscow.
For the extremely low price of 50 Russian rubles ($.89), you can make sure your selfie gets the extra 100 fake Instagram likes it deserves. For double the price ($1.77) you can purchase 100 Instagram followers, without even needing to leave the underground shopping center where you're hanging out.
Thankfully, this multifunctional device can also take care of your other social media needs. It takes selfies and prints Instagram photos, and it also sells fake followers and likes for VK, a popular social networking site in Russia.
Don't frequent this particular shopping center near the Kremlin? Not a problem. Kovalev assured me over Twitter DM that he's spotted the same vending machines throughout Moscow, and heard reports that they can be found in other Russian cities.
"I saw one in a book shop of all places!" he said.
Kovalev isn't sure how well the machine works, and I've been unable to verify the machine's efficacy myself. Kovalev promised to visit one of them soon and take a video of it in action.
What stopped him from filming the device the first time? "First time I saw it I was so baffled that I forgot to snap a pic," Kovalev said. Fair enough.
Russian tech publication vc.ru reportedly tried the machine. One of their journalists was able to successfully purchase fake likes, but it took several hours for them to kick in. They also contacted the company that makes the vending machines, Snatap. It's not clear whether the call to customer service is what caused the likes to arrive.
If you've seen this machine in the wild or used it yourself, send your photos and videos to firstname.lastname@example.org
Update June 8, 3:45 p.m.: This post has been updated with information from vc.ru's account of the vending machines.