Instagram goes to war on fake likes, follows and comments

20 Nov 2018

Image: © annette shaff/

Popular social media platform warns that automated apps for generating likes and followers have had their day.

Photo-sharing social media app Instagram has said it will use machine learning to find and remove accounts that use third-party apps to generate inauthentic likes, follows and comments to boost popularity.

At the heart of this is a real security problem, and the social network is trying to discourage users from sharing their login details with third-party apps, which can leave them vulnerable to being hacked or used to share spam.

‘Not only does this introduce bad behaviour into the Instagram community, it also makes these accounts less secure’

“Recently, we’ve seen accounts use third-party apps to artificially grow their audience,” Instagram said in a blogpost. “Every day, 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. Starting today, we will begin removing inauthentic likes, follows and comments from accounts that use third-party apps to boost their popularity.

“We’ve built machine-learning tools to help identify accounts that use these services, and remove the inauthentic activity. This type of behaviour is bad for the community, and third-party apps that generate inauthentic likes, follows and comments violate our community guidelines and terms of use.”

Instagram experience will be impacted

Growing followers is a serious business among so-called social influencers with many thousands of followers. The New York Times has reported on the rise of a new genre of ‘nanoinfluencers’ – people with fewer than 1,000 followers hoping to use their meagre influence to win free swag from brands.

No doubt the promise by third-party apps to boost follower numbers is tempting. However, giving login credentials to these apps poses a security nightmare for users.

Instagram said that users who use these apps will be issued with warnings that they are violating Facebook-owned Instagram’s policies, and will be urged to change their passwords and cut ties with these apps.

“People who use these types of apps share their username and password, and their accounts are sometimes used by third-party apps for inauthentic likes, follows and comments. Not only does this introduce bad behaviour into the Instagram community, it also makes these accounts less secure.

“We also know some people may have unknowingly shared their login credentials with a third-party app. If you receive an in-app message, simply change your password to revoke their access to your account. These new measures will be ongoing, and accounts that continue to use third-party apps to grow their audience may see their Instagram experience impacted.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years