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Why Instagram spam is worse than ever

And how to stop receiving messages and tags from bot accounts

Why Instagram spam is worse than ever  And how to stop receiving messages and tags from bot accounts

In recent months, many Instagram users have reported an increase in spam on the platform. Among the most widespread content are, for example, iPhone sales or alleged discounts on Shein, in which users are offered to become 'ambassadors' of the brand in exchange for a €800 shopping voucher. The phenomenon is interesting in itself because it is taking place at a time of transition for Meta's social network, as it's making major changes to the platform's algorithms, more focused on Reels. The posting of photos and comments by suspicious or untrustworthy profiles promoting blatantly fake offers is a relatively new phenomenon on social media - if you notice, until not too long ago, spam was almost only attributable to e-mail.

This type of content is produced and distributed by bots, which are becoming more and more widespread on the web: according to the latest edition of the Bad Bot Report, produced by the US cybersecurity company Imperva, 42% of Internet activity was generated by bots in 2021 - in 2020, it was around 41%. According to Imperva, more than 27% of the content produced on the Internet is attributable to bots that are looking to harm other users, usually through scams. The bots on Instagram try to attract users' attention by tagging them in photos or post-scam comments; increasingly, however, the bots also manage to like other users' Stories: a move that might seem «circumspect,» writes Vice, but is actually a way of legitimising themselves in front of the platform's algorithm and control methods. «Putting a Like is considered 'authentic behaviour' on Instagram, in the sense that real people do it.» CEO Adam Mosseri also spoke about this, saying: «It's something we're actually actively looking at and hope to improve over the course of the year. I've noticed an increase in spam and bot accounts liking my stories, which, for me at least, is more annoying than fake comments.»

These campaigns are carried out by profiles with similar characteristics: they have a credible, mostly female name, and the profile picture is often that of a young girl; accounts of this type usually have few posts and have only just been created. In addition, the bio-links on these pages usually conceal attempts at phishing, a type of scam in which they try to convince users to provide personal information, such as financial data or access codes, and then hack them. Meta, which has become aware of the spread of these spam campaigns, said they are «investigating the matter» and have «already removed a large number of profiles.» The company had previously said that it was blocking «millions of bots a day», and that it was continuing to invest in anti-spam technology thanks to «a team of over forty thousand people» responsible for cleaning up the platform of this kind of content, yet the major cuts in personnel made by Meta in 2022 - reduced by 25% in a few months - had major consequences on the section dedicated to content moderation - a service that Meta had already displaced, contracting it out to external companies, with all the consequences of the case. The decrease in resources and personnel in this corporate sector has undoubtedly favoured the spread of bots, and today more and more people who use Instagram on a daily basis end up intercepting or being victims of these campaigns.

To date, the only tools available to users to stop bot accounts from bothering them is reporting and blocking them, but as they seem to be more than ever, this activity can become frustrating over time if you are a daily victim of such campaigns. One can also - within the Privacy section - change the settings on personal messages, choosing not to receive requests from «Others on Instagram.» One can also decide not to be tagged by anyone in photos, or only allow it to those one knows with the option «People you follow.» While for the problem of likes in stories by bots, the only option would be to make your account private, although this would be a rather invasive solution, especially for those whose work focuses on Instagram and other social media.