If the algorithm is getting you down and you never get more than 20 likes on a fire selfie, while boring influencers on your TL are averaging thousands, then we have some good news for you. Instagram has announced that it’s at last cracking down on the use of fake followers and paid for likes on the platform. In a press release posted via Instagram (duh), they promised to delete the fakes in order to restore trust in Instagram users and advertisers. “Recently we’ve seen accounts use third-party apps to artificially grow their audience”, the statement read. “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.”
Under the new crackdown, users who are paying to fake their influencer lifestyle will now receive an in-app message alerting them that their “inauthentic likes, follows and comments” have been removed by Instagram. The platform will then force these users to change their password, so that the third party apps who are making them appear more popular won’t have access to their account anymore. And for those rebellious fakers who just want to buy more after being caught, Instagram has an ominous warning: “Accounts that continue to use third-party apps to grow their audience may see their Instagram experience impacted.”
Which, in non press-release speak, basically translates to: “We are going to use the algorithm to fuck you up.”
Instagram is the latest social media platform to declare war on the fakes. Earlier this year Twitter launched a purge of fake followers, with hilarious results, as celebrities like Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and even President Barack Obama lost millions of paid for fans. In fact, the entire social media platform saw its user numbers dip 6% following the purge, Time reported. And it seems that Insta’s sudden drive for authenticity couldn’t come at a better time, as audiences are steadily losing faith in the highly curated, embarrassingly fake influencer posts the app has become synonymous with. In September, London based Instagram influencer Scarlett London was universally dragged for her "ridiculous" morning set up created to promote Listerine, while advertisers are turner to smaller, more authentic accounts with as little as 100 followers (so-called “nano-influencers”) or even teenage meme accounts to help them promote their products instead.
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So could this purge be another step towards the death of the influencer as we know it? Well unfortunately, probably not. Instagram may be deleting the fakes, but influencing in the traditional sense is still big business. The top influencers can make up to $50,000 USD for one sponsored post, and those who fail to influence the way they’ve promised (pour one out for fallen soldier Luka Sabbat, who was paid $60,000 USD to promote Snapchat sunglasses, then never did it) are harshly punished -- well, okay, they get sued. And in the same month that Scarlett London was being laughed at on Twitter for creating a bedroom space just for Instagram, a millennial pink, copper-highlighted penthouse apartment in Manhattan’s SoHo district was created for the same purpose, and is rented out to the industry’s top Instagram influencers for an eyewatering $15,000 USD a month. As much as we might like to believe that Instagram’s purge of fake bitches is the first nail in the coffin for 2018’s Biblical plague, the influencers, it’s much more likely that the influencers will adapt and grow even more powerful and annoying elsewhere.
“As it’s always the case, just as quickly as Instagram develops tools for identifying irregular behavior, there will be other people trying to find loopholes,” Jessica Shirling, influencer consultant at We Are Social, told The Drum. “It may be easy to identify fake accounts, but it becomes more complicated when the fake interactions come from genuine accounts. Unless there are repercussions for these services, if they get stopped from using one service, they’ll just move on to the next.”
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.