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Fake Instagram follower services slapped with lawsuit

Graham CLULEY

October 22, 2020

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Fake Instagram follower services slapped with lawsuit
  • Fake engagement sites use bots to follow Instagram accounts
  • Social media influencers desperate for more fans fuel fake engagement industry

Facebook has filed federal lawsuits against four individuals who it claims have been selling fake Instagram followers.

In a press release, Facebook named defendants Sean Heilweil and Jarrett Lusso of New York-based boostgram.com, and Laila Abou Trabi and Robin Abou Trabi of Dubai-based website instant-fans.com.

Both sites are said to use a network of bot accounts on Instagram which can be commanded to deliver a barrage of likes and follows to any other account. This “fake engagement” is sold for a price – sometimes to genuine individuals, and other times to “commercial resellers” of fake engagement.

Which means that if you’re desperate to prove that you are a social media influencer, you can pay as little as $30 per week to artificially inflate your count of followers and likes, and perhaps dupe brands into believing that you are more popular than you really are.

Facebook says it is not the first time it has attempted to prevent the individuals named in lawsuits from selling thousands of automated fake likes and follows to those who are desperate to brag about their social media following on Instagram.

Apparently it has sent multiple cease-and-desist notices since 2017, months before Facebook-owned Instagram announced it was taking action to reduce “inauthentic activity” on the social network.

But Instant Fans and Boostgram continued to violate Instagram’s Terms of Use, and even – according to Facebook – falsely claimed they had no ability to take down their own websites.

In some cases, third-party apps have requested users’ login credentials to inflate their social media following, which is clearly not to be recommended.

Viewed today, Boostgram’s website has been replaced with a curt closure message:

Boostgram website is closed, we are no longer accepting new customers.

Meanwhile, Instant Fans gives the appearance of still being in operation, offering to help grow users’ influence on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and other social media sites.

But whatever happens to these two companies, it appears that Facebook is facing an uphill battle. Every time a fake engagement service is squashed, two more spring up to replace it promising to bring genuine followers to social media accounts hungry for more fans.

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