As part of Instagram’s ongoing crackdown on the scourge of fake followers leaving fake likes on the accounts of equally fake influencers, parent company Facebook announced earlier today that it filed two separate lawsuits targeting four individuals whose stock and trade was selling fake engagement.
The post notes that Facebook had previously sent multiple cease and desists to the companies in question since 2017, months before Instagram formally announced it was cracking down on accounts sporting a suspicious number of likes, follows, or comments of dubious origin. According to the legal filings for both suits, Facebook also took the time to disable any Instagram accounts affiliated with these businesses, which were sometimes used to hawk their engagement wares. Apparently, neither company was deterred by the tech giant, leading to today’s lawsuits.
One of the companies named, Boostgram, spent the past five years building up a bot empire that could deliver thousands of automated “likes” and “follows” to any Instagrammer who was willing to pay a weekly fee of about $30. As the suit against Boostgram points out, the New York-based duo behind the company didn’t let the multiple letters Facebook’s council sent to them over the years get in the way of their venture, aside from getting them to scrub any referneces to “automation” from their company’s site—ostensibly because these automated bot accounts blatantly violate Instagram’s terms of service.
The second company hit with a suit from Facebook was “instant-fans.com,” a company run by a duo out of Dubai, which, like the aforementioned Boostgram, used similar rings of bots to beef up engagement numbers, not only across Instagram, but on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and elsewhere. Aside from this, they also loaned out their bots to other engagement scam companies (for a fee, of course.)
When Facebook told them to cut that shit out in 2017, the docket describes how the pair claimed, falsely, to have no ability to take down their own website.
These two cases mark the latest leg of Facebook’s attempt to pummel these sorts of companies. Last year, a similar traffic-booster based out of New Zealand was slammed with a lawsuit after the company had allegedly earned more than $9 million selling fake engagement services. Then this past summer, a Russia-based developer faced a suit of his own after the tech giant caught him running a handful of businesses based on similarly fraudulent traffic.
Even though the business of fake engagement isn’t only a violation of Instagram’s rules but also those of the FTC in some cases, it’s unlikely Facebook’s slow slog of lawsuits will do much to make a dent in the industry. Right now, even looking for tips to “boost Instagram followers” via a Google search turns up ads by companies that look nearly identical to those named in the suit, all promising to bring “real, targeted followers” to your account—all for a monthly fee. There’s a reason that other reporters have compared the battle against Instagram’s growth hackers to a sort eternally doomed game of whack-a-mole.