Fake Instagram followers could cost brands up to $1.3 billion. Here’s how they’re trying to fix that.

Fake Instagram followers could cost brands up to $1.3 billion. Here’s how they’re trying to fix that.

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Social media platforms have been plagued by fake followers ever since people realized they could use those platforms to advertise. But in recent years, the issue has become a true challenge for social media companies to cope with, especially when even the practice of literally buying followers has become commonplace.

The story: Dries Depoorter, a technology artist, has recently unveiled his latest creation: "Quick Fix" -- a vending machine-like device which allows you to buy likes or followers "in just a few seconds."

"Even the young people didn't know this was possible, but they wanted it,” said Depoorter. "In a city, I think it would fit really well next to a soda machine."

The practice of buying followers: On platforms like Instagram, sponsors pay so-called influencers to advertise their brands. The bigger a social media following on an account, the more money influencers can earn (just as buying ads during the Super Bowl is more expensive than during a weekday TV show). Thus, the rise of fake followers...and sponsors who are now paying to reach people who don't exist, according to Wired.

A report by cybersecurity firm Cheq estimated that fake followers are likely to cost brands $1.3 billion in 2019. Tech firms now realize they are liable to scams and are taking extra precautions.

Gabrielle Vogt, senior manager of digital talent at social media marketing firm HelloSociety, says, "In the last few years, we've started holding influencers accountable in their contracts. They have to agree that they haven't participated in comment pods, botting, or purchasing fake followers."

You can read Wired's entire investigation of how companies are fighting fake followers here.

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