Attack of the Killer Robots
Let’s start out by defining what a “Bot” is. A “bot” is a computer that runs automatically and executes certain commands. These bots are typically related to some sort of SPAM.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get into the purpose of this blog post. Most of us that have been on some sort of social network have been the victims of bots. For example, if you’ve been on Twitter for any length of time, you’ve been followed by some random half-naked teenage girl who wants to date you or some financial company who will get you out of debt. You’ll also notice they follow a lot of random people and their tweets are all reposts of some other feed.
Well the problem has recently worked it’s way onto Instagram. Instagram’s API is pretty heavily protected when it comes to having the ability to post directly to the app. The only app that has been approved to do so is Hipstamatic. But somehow these bots are doing something that isn’t typical of the normal spammer on Instagram.
If you are on Instagram, you’ve dealt with the typical spammer accounts who either post pics from Google or WeHeartIt. They’re also notorious for taking screen captures of your photos and reposting them as their own. But, this is where things begin to differentiate. These spammers are NOT bots. Even though they lack creativity, there is a human behind the account.
The bots that have attacked Instagram have somehow hacked into the Instagram API and are not only creating fake accounts, but they are also reposting entire posts. This isn’t just a screen capture either. The bots are reposting photos and the captions word for word. There is no human behind these accounts either. They seem to follow the same accounts and are followed by the same accounts. Additionally, they don’t comment on their photos or even reply to you when you tell them they’ve stolen your photos.
So what’s the point of these bots attacking Instagram? It’s actually quite simple. Obviously, since Instagram spread out into the Android world, the quantity of followers has grown significantly. It has become harder for people to get noticed and therefore it’s harder to get followers and likes on your photos. So how do you increase your numbers? You buy them. At least that is the service that some companies are offering. Some companies, which I won’t name since I don’t want to endorse this practice, are selling followers and likes for a “small” fee. For example, you can pay $50 and get around 100 guaranteed followers and likes. For around $1,800 you can buy 20,000 followers and likes. But who are these followers? If you guessed they are bot accounts, then you’re correct.
In my opinion, this is one of THE worst things to happen to Instagram. The whole point of Instagram is community and appreciation of each others’ work. With practices like these, it will only be too long until “the next best thing” comes around and we all say, “Remember when Instagram was cool?”
Let me be the first to say, this isn’t Instagram’s fault. They really can’t do too much about it unless users help report and block these bot accounts. I’ve put together an extensive list of tips to help users ward off these attacks. You can find them at my Instagram account under the tag #kewiki_saynotobots or you can view online here: http://statigr.am/viewer.php#/tag/kewiki_saynotobots/.
As a community we have some responsibility to protect the integrity of the app. With the proper practices in place, we will hopefully be able to stop the bots and get back to enjoying creativity.