As many as 95 million of Instagram’s 1 billion users could be bots, according to a new study conducted by research firm Ghost Data for US tech publication The Information.
The research highlights Facebook isn’t just fighting fake accounts on its platform, but also Instagram, which is acquired for $1 billion in 2012.
Ghost Data estimates 9.5 per cent of Instagram users are bots, compared to 7.9 per cent in 2015, when the company previously ran its analysis. The researchers arrived at the figures by purchasing 20,000 bots and analysing their behaviour. They then looked for accounts with similar traits across 1 million Instagram accounts.
A Facebook spokesperson told The Information: “We take spam, inauthentic and other abusive behaviour very seriously. Our internal estimates show that spam accounts make up a small fraction of Instagram’s monthly active user base.”
This week reporters at the ABC were also busy hunting for bots on Facebook – they identified a slew of suspicious accounts which all claimed to be from Texas, Queensland, which is 300km southwest of Brisbane.
“ABC News provided details of 218 of these accounts to Facebook on July 4 and, within a few days, most of them had disappeared off the platform,” the report states.
Facebook published its enforcement figures in May for the first time. The company estimates that fake accounts represented approximately three to four per cent of monthly active users on Facebook during Q1 2018 and Q4 2017. It disabled around 1.3 billion fake accounts in the six months to May 2018.
When previously asked about the enforcement report, a Facebook spokesperson told Which-50 the social media network has 14 years experience removing fake accounts and uses machine learning to identify fake accounts, which are removed within minutes and not served advertising.
Twitter is also purging fake accounts. Last week it removed tens of millions of shady accounts from the platform. As a result, follower numbers declined along with Twitter’s share price.