People have lost millions of followers due to an Instagram bug

14 Feb 2019

View of Instagram app in use. Image: dimarik/Depositphotos

Initially thought to be a bot purge, a mysterious Instagram bug has seen famous faces such as Ariana Grande lose millions of followers.

Many famous faces and influencers alike suffered a rude awakening yesterday morning (13 February) as celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande all suffered significant follower reductions due to a mysterious Instagram bug.

Grande’s follower count reportedly dropped from 145m to 143m. Kylie Jenner and Selena Gomez also saw drops of more than 2m followers each. Meanwhile, Kardashian and Bieber lost 1.9m and 1.7m followers respectively.

Additionally, the Verge reports that the bug has impacted popular YouTube creators such as makeup artist James Charles, who took to Twitter to express confusion at the development.

Though an article from Fast Company originally portrayed the losses to be the result of a ‘bot purge’, an official statement put out on the Instagram Twitter account has said that it is down to a glitch.

“We’re aware of an issue that is causing a change in account follower numbers for some people right now,” the company explained, vowing to resolve it as quickly as possible. Some hours later, Instagram stated that it expected to have the problem resolved by 9am PST on 14 February.

Some Instagram users are already saying that their follower counts have been restored after reporting the issue to the company. Instagram has yet to respond to requests for comment regarding what has caused the bug.

No love lost?

Social media platforms routinely conduct bot and spam account purges to ensure user counts are reflective of reality. The purge conducted by Twitter in the summer of 2018 attracted particular attention due to the amount of  public figures who saw their followings significantly reduced.

The notorious Kardashian clan lost millions of followers between them, while former US president Barack Obama saw his rounded follower count drop by 3m.

Instagram instigated a similar purge in November 2018 using machine learning to weed out fake accounts. In the process, it exposed influencers that had used third-party applications to artificially inflate their follower counts and rates of engagement.

View of Instagram app in use. Image: dimarik/Depositphotos

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic