Instagram is going to rely on “machine learning tools” to cut down on people gaming the system.
You don’t need to make more friends to get more Instagram followers — all you need to do is swipe your credit card, and some services will boost your follower count for you.
Instagram wants to cut down on that. Starting Monday, Instagram says it will no longer allow “inauthentic likes, follows and comments from accounts that use third-party apps to boost their popularity.” That includes buying “Likes” and followers, and paying for other engagement generated by apps that require a user’s Instagram login details in order to operate on their behalf.
Instagram says it “built machine learning tools” to help detect accounts growing artificially. The move is not retroactive, so Instagram won’t be removing “Likes” or followers that accounts have already garnered. It’s just going to prevent them in the future.
Instagram doesn’t list any specific apps or services on its blog post, so it’s tough to tell which third-party services will be impacted by this. But it’s easy to find services that sell “Likes” and followers online.
It’s easy to understand why people pay to boost their “Likes” and followers. An Instagram influencer with a larger following, or more engagement, can charge more to advertisers who want pay them to promote their products. There’s also a psychological element to it: The more followers you have, the more legitimate you look to real Instagram users who may also want to follow you.
But social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter , have been cracking down on bots and “inauthentic activity” in recent years. Some of it can be dangerous, like when Russian actors used Facebook to try and sway public opinion ahead of the 2016 U.S. elections. It’s also annoying, and delegitimizes the rest of the service. Who cares about follower counts and “Likes” if they’re coming from bots?
This kind of activity has been against Instagram’s Terms of Service for a while, so it’s not entirely clear why Instagram wants to crack down on this now. Here’s a logical guess though: Facebook is under more pressure than ever to police the activity on its platforms, given all that has happened with Facebook and Russian election meddling since 2016.
And Instagram isn’t done: “We’ll have more updates in the coming weeks on additional measures we’re taking to tackle inauthentic activity on Instagram,” the company wrote on its blog.