A trained eye can quickly tell whether an Instagram account is operated by a human or a bot. Nevertheless, the image network has failed to get its bot problem under control. A new study mentions the existence of 95 million bot accounts on Instagram.

As soon as a social network or digital platform gains in importance, they appear in ever larger numbers: bots and fake accounts. Programmers use them to automatically interact with other accounts or to spread spam, viruses and advertising on the networks.

So this phenomenon is anything but new. Nevertheless, social networks have not succeeded in identifying and deleting fake profiles at an early stage. Rather, Facebook, Twitter and Co. discover a gap, fix it and delete millions of fake profiles, only to deal with a new vulnerability a few days later.

A fake Instagram account rarely comes alone

The networks handle the bots and fake accounts differently. While Twitter keeps announcing big waves of deletion, Facebook is rather quiet.

If you want to find out how many fake profiles exist on the world’s largest social network, you have to take a close look at the quarterly report. There is talk of 13 percent, or the equivalent of almost 270 million fake accounts.

On Twitter, the balance is not much better. According to a survey, between 8.8 and 14.6 percent of all Twitter profiles are fake. This corresponds to between 29 and 48 million profiles.

And the market researchers at Ghost Data have now also conducted a survey for Instagram. The average results are 95 million bots and fake accounts.

Economic effects of fake profiles

Although Instagram does not have more fake profiles in percentage than other networks, the message is not very positive.

If one in ten Instagram accounts is not operated by a human being, it becomes clear how great the risk is of wasting advertising budgets. After all, an influencer’s reach of millions is only of value if they are real people being reached.

Instagram itself explains in a statement that it takes spam and abusive behavior very seriously.

Accounts that sell automated likes or followers are clearly considered spam by us and will be removed from the platform. We continuously review suspicious activities and work to understand how to prevent such activities in the future. Our internal estimates show that spam accounts are only a small fraction of Instagram’s monthly active accounts.

According to current estimates, the cost of ad fraud at Instagram is approximately $500 million.

This makes it all the more important for advertisers, agencies and companies to refrain from just looking at the number of followers. If an Instagram account has 100 real fans who interact passionately, it’s more valuable than a profile with 100,000 fans where nothing happens.