Fighting Instagram's $1.3 Billion Problem—Fake Followers

Wired | 9/10/2019 | Staff
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On Instagram, manufacturing fake followers is a ubiquitous tactic, one that's churned out at least 95 million near-perfect human forgeries for you to brush past in the digital hallways, unaware. You can buy them in droves from dozens of services online, or even from a coin-operated vending machine created by artist Dries Depoorter. He calls his fame dispenser "Quick Fix": a wall-mounted box with an Arduino and a keyboard, where visitors can type in their social media handles and select what faux-honorific they'd like to receive—likes or follows, starting at just one euro, delivered instantly. In Helsinki, where the machine debuted, "Quick Fix" was a revelation. "Even the young people didn't know this was possible, but they wanted it,” Depoorter says. "In a city, I think it would fit really well next to a soda machine."

Instagram Now Fact-Checks, but Who Will Do the Checking?

Followers - Microinfluencer - Ranks - Illusion - Customers

The fake followers would fit in anywhere: padding out an obscure microinfluencer's ranks, creating the illusion of customers for would-be T-shirt seller, skulking among legions of real fans on celebrity accounts like Ellen DeGeneres'. A report by cybersecurity firm Cheq projects that these fake fans will cost brands $1.3 billion in 2019 alone. In the influencer economy, you're paid in part for the size of your audience, which means that, if an influencer's account is swarming with fake followers, brands are paying extra to reach people who don't exist.

Agencies and would-be sponsors know they're being scammed, and are growing more vigilant. "In the last few years, we've started holding influencers accountable in their contracts," says Gabrielle Vogt, senior manager of digital talent at influencer marketing agency HelloSociety. "They have to agree that they haven't participated in comment pods, botting, or purchasing fake followers." Let's break down these forms of fakery. "Comment pods" (or "engagement pods") are groups...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Wired
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