Instagram wants to hit fake influencers where it hurts - their follower count

Instagram wants to hit fake influencers where it hurts - their follower count

Instagram is taking action against those buying fake followers and likes for their content. 

Influencers have been able to artificially bolster their follower counts for years. Countless third-party apps and services allow users to purchase followers and likes in order to make their accounts look more "influential" in front of brands.

To counter this, Instagram is taking steps to punish fraudulent accounts, as well as alerting users of when they may be seeing one.

The platform will be removing fake likes and followers from users that have bought while letting them know that action has been taken. It'll also be urging users that have shared their credentials with third-party apps to change their passwords. 

"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," Instagram said in a blog post detailing the move. 

Instagram has been battling inauthentic profiles since launch, but this new move suggests that its ready to take further action to combat external apps that are assisting influencer fraud.

Immediate action

A study from CampaignDeus revealed that one in eight influencers in the UK has purchased followers or likes to feign higher engagement rates. This is a worry for brands upping their influencer marketing spend - and 65 per cent of businesses are looking to do that in the next year.

The conversation surrounding inauthentic influence rocketed back in July after Unilever began taking action. CEO Keith Weed said that an "irrevocable breakdown in influencer trust is inevitable unless immediate action is taken".

Spotting fraud

More and more brands are recognising the signs of fake influence. Common red flags include a user's ratio of views to comments, the ratio of likes to dislikes, and the geographical location of a profile's followers. If a UK-based influencer has thousands of followers based in a middle eastern country, that's a warning sign. 

Instagram botting is also a common problem, with users turning to automated methods to beef up their social footprint for them.  


Danielle Partis is editor of and former editor of She was named Journalist of the Year at the MCV Women in Games Awards 2019, as well as in the MCV 30 under 30 2020. Prior to Steel Media, she wrote about music and games at Team Rock.