Instagram is making a new push to stamp out bot accounts via a new process that will require the owners of profiles found to be connected with suspicious behavior to provide identification information to confirm that they are, in fact, a real person.
As per Instagram:
"We want the content you see on Instagram to be authentic and to come from real people, not bots or others trying to mislead you. Starting today, we will begin asking people to confirm who’s behind an account when we see a pattern of potential inauthentic behavior. By prompting the people behind accounts to confirm their information, we will be able to better understand when accounts are attempting to mislead their followers, hold them accountable, and keep our community safe."
Instagram will take a range of measures into account when assessing potential bot activity, including:
- When the majority of the profile's followers are in a different country to their location
- If there are clear signs of automation use, such as bot accounts as followers
- Accounts engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior
Instagram says that this new push will only involve a small number of accounts, and that if an account holder is asked to confirm their identity, the information they provide will be stored securely, and deleted within 30 days once the review is completed. You can see a full list of Instagram's accepted ID options here.
When an account is identified as a potential bot or fake profile, it will continue to function as normal until the allotted time to provide the ID information.
"If an account chooses not to confirm their information, their content may receive reduced distribution, or the account may be disabled."
It's the latest push to ensure that Instagram profiles represent real people and business, and are not being used for manipulative purposes, like providing fake likes and followers in order to inflate other accounts' numbers.
Instagram's been gradually upping the pressure on this front for some time - in late 2018, Instagram made a concerted effort to remove likes and followers gained through third-party apps and tools, while it also added new warnings to stop the use of automation tools designed to artificially inflate people's followings.
That push, along with legal proceedings launched against follower and like sellers by parent company Facebook has had some impact on the fake engagement marketplace - but still, a quick search online will reveal a range of Instagram Like sellers, so it remains a problem on the platform.
Heading into the 2020 US Election, Instagram is looking to take more action - and while its capacity for human review of such accounts has been impacted by COVID-19, this new initiative will provide another way to put more pressure on disingenuous accounts, which should limit their impact.
And while Instagram was not one of the key platforms used for voter manipulation campaigns in 2016, it has also been targeted for this purpose. This adds another defence option to protect the platform from such activity.