- Instagram, the image-sharing app with 1 billion users worldwide, yesterday started letting users that reach large audiences apply to have their accounts verified by submitting a copy of their legal or business identification for approval. The identity authentication process is part of a broader effort to improve the app’s security features, per a blog post by Mike Krieger, co-founder and chief technology officer of Instagram.
- Instagram is also adding an "About This Account" tool next month, enabling users to see more information about accounts that reach large audiences, including the date the account joined, the country of origin, accounts with shared followers, any username changes in the past year and any ads the account is currently running.
- Instagram users can also add a layer of extra security by using third-party authenticator apps, such as DUO Mobile or Google Authenticator, to log into their accounts. Users who don't have an authentication app will be pointed to Apple's App Store or the Google Play Store to see a selection of security apps to download. Support for third-party authenticator apps will roll out globally in the coming weeks, per the blog post.
Instagram's measures to authenticate accounts are an important step in trying to make the platform safer for brands that want transparency and efficacy from social media campaigns and don't want their ads appearing amid fake accounts and objectionable posts. But those concerns haven't stopped some marketers and influencers from paying bot networks to generate "likes" and comments that help to build buzz on social media. Such activity has led to another budding industry, social media auditing, that tries to protect advertisers from being defrauded. Meanwhile, creating several Instagram accounts — such as "finstas," or fake Instagram accounts — has become a popular way for U.S. teens to manage different parts of their social media lives.
Instagram's account authentication and security improvements follow similar measures by social network Twitter, whose loose policies on creating accounts made its platform rife with internet trolls, bots and fake users. Instagram has been susceptible to similar activity, although the company has claimed that spam accounts make up a small percentage of its user base, per Digiday. The app in 2014 purged its platform of millions of fake accounts, but that didn’t completely curtail the budding black market in fake followers, per the New York Times. In July, The Information reported that Instagram may have 95 million bot accounts.
The social media industry this year has faced greater scrutiny after Instagram owner Facebook was embroiled in the Cambridge Analytica scandal that revealed how the social network shared personal data about millions of users with thousands of third-party apps. Facebook has cracked down on suspicious activity, including last week's removal of 652 pages, accounts and groups that the company identified as part of a disinformation campaign originating in Iran and Russia.
But rooting out fake activity can be tricky, as Facebook discovered when the most popular page for the Black Lives Matter movement was determined to be a fake, per CNN. The fake page had almost 700,000 followers, more than twice as many as the official Black Lives Matter page, and solicited cash donations from Facebook users. Instagram hasn't experienced the same kind of high-profile scandals, but as the platform continues to become more popular, it will become a bigger target for abuse.