“It’s untrustworthy for the true following, and it’s certainly untrustworthy for the quality of the creative work.”
Instagram has been tight-lipped about why it is just now going after such sites but said
that “fostering authentic community activity is a priority and our policies reflect that.” A spokeswoman for the company said it views “any service that allows people to create bots to gain inauthentic followers as spam,” and pointed to guidelines that prohibit users from artificially collecting likes and followers and posting repetitive comments.
Many people with public accounts on Instagram may not realize
that when random users follow them or like or comment on their posts, it is often the work of a cottage industry of websites that, for as little as $10 a month, send their clients’ accounts on automated liking, following and commenting sprees.
“When you have Instagress coming in there and leaving fake comments like ‘stunning photo’
and ‘stunning gallery’ and there’s no one behind it and then the likes — it’s as if they hijacked that personal neuropathway in your brain.”
Sara Melotti, another photographer, wrote a confessional blog post recently
that outlined other methods influencers use to increase their numbers so brands will work with them.
In addition to automation, she described buying followers, joining pods of 10 to 15 people who commit to liking and commenting on photos as soon as they are posted, and participating in bigger groups
that coordinate posts and comments for the same time in hopes of appearing on Instagram’s “Explore” tab, where they will reach even more people.
“If you’re a photographer trying to build a following or anyone trying to get your work out there
and meet new people, when you get a genuine interaction, that feels good,” Mr. Wilson said in an interview.
Those remain a problem for social platforms including Instagram, which notably deleted millions of fake users in 2014 in what was known as the “Instagram Rapture.” The automation services, which log into customers’ accounts directly and run at speeds
that evade detection, say they simply mimic what people do to build their accounts, at prices cheaper than paid ads.