Instagram is cracking down on fake account activity with the closing of Instagress, a popular third-party service that advertised itself as an automated way to “get real Instagram followers and become incredibly popular.”
Instagress said it was forced to shut down its service, which let people pay to have their accounts automatically like and comment on other photos, “by request of Instagram” on Thursday. The tool is “like creating a small robot clone of yourself with the same interests and style, and then letting it work for you on Instagram” to gain followers, according to the now-shuttered Instagress website.
The move signals that Facebook-owned Instagram is starting to address the proliferation of so-called bot activity on its platform. An Instagram spokesperson told Business Insider on Thursday that “we don’t comment on specific apps” and shared a link to Instagram’s developer policy, which prohibits the selling of Instagram data by third parties.
In a recent post on PetaPixel, a photographer named Calder Wilson described how he used Instagress for two years to like thousands of photos and make thousands of comments per month. “In an environment where we equate more likes and followers with better photos and better photographers, for many think it’s a no-brainer to bot their account,” he wrote.
It’s unclear how many users paid for Instagress, which had cost $10 per month, but the service had been operational for at least three years before shutting down on Thursday. A 2015 research study estimated that around 8% of all Instagram accounts were likely automated spam accounts, and that hundreds of third-party services sold fake followers or fraudulent activity on the platform.