Instagram Bug: Many Lose Millions of Followers Due to “Instagram Purge”

/ 12:34 AM February 17, 2019

It seems as though Instagram has purged millions of fake and inactive accounts, as many users experienced a sharp decrease in their follower base. Popular accounts and active users expressed their concerns for the random social media event all over the world. But what seemed to be an Instagram purge turned out to be something completely different. It is now being described as a “bug” by multiple social media experts, and is currently being dealt with as an internal issue.

Instagram’s tweet read: “We’re aware of an issue that is causing a change in account follower numbers for some people right now. We’re working to resolve this as quickly as possible.”

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Instagram made a statement on Twitter regarding the issue through their official account, “We’re expecting to have this issue resolved by 9 a.m. PST tomorrow…” Interestingly, Instagram as a company was also impacted negatively by this technical malfunction, as they too lost millions of supporters.

The Facebook-owned platform is now informing its users directly about this bug through an in-app notification. It further states that the issue is a bug in the software and not related to the overall application performance.

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However, this is not the first time Instagram has encountered a “glitch” in their program. During November of last year, the social media platform announced that it would be deleting accounts that seem to be from a third-party app used to synthetically grow an audience base.

“Recently, we’ve seen accounts use third-party apps to artificially grow their audience. Starting today, we will begin removing inauthentic likes, follows and comments from accounts that use third-party apps to boost their popularity.

We’re taking a number of steps to limit this kind of unwelcome behavior. Accounts we identify using these services will receive an in-app message alerting them that we have removed the inauthentic likes, follows and comments given by their account to others. We will also ask them to secure their account by changing their password”, as previously stated by Instagram regarding last year’s changes.

Social media consultant Matt Navarra even shared an excel file listing huge Instagram accounts that had massive drops in followers. Katy Perry, for example, lost 900,000 followers; Kylie Jenner also lost 2.5 million followers.

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Even sport fashion brand Nike lost a large number of followers, which dropped from 84,600,000 to 83,500,000. One of Buzzfeed’s account, buzzfeedtasty, also lost 700,000 followers. Even social media mogul 9gag dropped from 48,600,000 to 49,800,000 followers.

Celebrity stylist James Charles took his feelings on Twitter when he lost over half a million followers. Singers Ariana Grande and Selena Gomez couldn’t escape from Instagram’s purge either, each losing 3 million and 2 million followers respectively.

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While some users expressed their confusion when checking their accounts, the extent of how the bug has affected the platform is still largely unknown. The specifics are not well defined, as the error may have caused different changes on different accounts.  

Fans even expressed their dismay on Twitter as their accounts had massive reductions in their follower base. The disappearances have yet to be fully explained.

Nathan Kinsella, founder of Manila based iProfit Social shared his thoughts with Inquirer on Friday. “We work with thousands of IG accounts daily and although most saw a drop initially their follower accounts have all returned to normal within 48 hours. We expect Instagram to continue to police inauthentic behavior and we welcome the removal of such accounts from the platform.”

However, Instagram hasn’t been the only one cleaning up their social platform. Twitter has already started wiping out fake accounts and bots. These changes directly affect political figures, celebrities, and “influencers,” as the reach of their exposure is effected. Because the number of Twitter followers has always been considered a metric of popularity, the follower count can influence various business, political, and social agendas. Because these accounts carry real world implications and power, many argue that the removal of fake accounts is beneficial to the platforms. The Instagram influencers that get paid tens, to hundreds, to thousands of dollars for Instagram content may be doing so through using fraudulent account behavior. The social media platforms recognize that this market manipulation is concerning. The problem solely lies on people buying followers to boost their popularity. Is this type of market manipulation through ingenuine marketing tactics an inevitable side effect of mass social media exposure?

While we all know how important followers are for influencers, especially when cash is on the line, we hope that Instagram and Facebook are able to remedy these technical issues and establish a secure means for companies to promote their product or service.

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