19 December 2014

The New York Times: “Millions of Fake Instagram Users Disappear in Purge”

This week, we got a look at just how many junk accounts there really are on Instagram, the four-year-old photo and video sharing service owned by Facebook. In what has been called the “Instagram Rapture”, the company is deleting all the accounts it had previously designated as “spammy” from the follower counts of its users. And for some high-profile accounts, a lot of users have been vaporized.

No account has lost more users than Instagram’s own main account. More than 29 percent of Instagram’s followers, or 18.9 million users, disappeared from Wednesday to Thursday, according to a graphic of the top 100 Instagram accounts compiled by Zach Allia, a software developer.

Vindu Goel

A necessary process to keep the network healthy; fighting against spammers and abuse is a constant struggle for any online community, from age-old email to and . But it does put some of the recent reports of better engagement in a different light. After all, the top 100 accounts lost on average 7.7% of their followers, some even 50 to 60%! You have to wonder how many of the likes and comments were fake as well.

The effects of #instapurge 2014 on the top 100 Instagram accounts

What I find even more interesting – astonishing actually – are some of the reactions to the purge by Instagram users: many are actually complaining, because they can’t meet their ‘follower goals’ anymore… Maybe it’s a natural phase that each social network goes through as it grows and matures. After all, Twitter experienced a similar ‘follower rush’ early on, and some people used to ‘collect’ Facebook ‘friends’, restricted only by the 5000-friends limit. But somehow I can’t see this type of egocentric behavior supporting a valid platform for news.

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