Instagram Has a Bot Problem, Despite 'Purge', Say Researchers

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After looking at over 10.2 million accounts and studying the behavior of 20,000 purchased fake accounts, some Italian researchers have concluded that Instagram still has a bot problem.

How bad is it? According to security researcher Andrea Stroppa, it's not great. He says that up to 8 percent of Instagram's over 300 million users are bots.

This, despite a concerted effort on Instagram's part to purge such accounts from the network.

This past December, Instagram announced an effort to get rid of "fake and spammy accounts."

"As more people join, keeping Instagram authentic is critical—it’s a place where real people share real moments. We’re committed to doing everything possible to keep Instagram free from the fake and spammy accounts that plague much of the web, and that’s why we’re finishing up some important work that began earlier this year. We’ve been deactivating spammy accounts from Instagram on an ongoing basis to improve your experience. As part of this effort, we will be deleting these accounts forever, so they will no longer be included in follower counts. This means that some of you will see a change in your follower count," said Instagram at the time.

The purge hit many celebrity accounts the hardest, with popular users like Beyonce and Kim Kardashian losing up to 7% of their followers.

"Despite that last December purge and new 'countermeasures' to curb this trend, there is still a lack of transparency about internal data and very few analysis on the actual presence of spam­bots, especially on Instagram. Now that 'anybody can advertise on the platform,' and the company is set to 'become a real business,' it is crucial to create a level playing field for everybody – and also to show more respect for users that flock social media platforms," reads the report.

Social networks with bot problems could also, unsurprisingly, face ad problems. Marketers want to know that they are paying for real eyes, not a bot's. That's why you've seen social networks like Facebook and Twitter downplay their fake account problems for some time.

The research also found that 19.8 percent of the accounts analyzed never posted, 10% only posted once in a month, about half of the accounts had fewer than five posts.

The report claims that 30% of users are "inactive", meaning one or zero posts in a month. Instagram disputes this, saying "active" means logging on. Instagram has a point here, as plenty of users like looking at Instagram without actually posting themselves.

Just like Facebook, Instagram uses automated and manual measures to curb the bot problem. But as long as it's super easy (and it most certainly is) to buy and sell fake accounts and likes, this will continue to be a problem.

Josh Wolford

Josh Wolford is a writer for WebProNews. He likes beer, Japanese food, and movies that make him feel weird afterward. Mostly beer.

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