Instagram recently decided to get rid of all the fake or inactive followers that have been inflating follower numbers on a variety of accounts. Many are referring to the mass cleanup as “the purge.”
Why an account might have these ghost followers can happen for a variety of reasons. An innocent reason is that spam accounts just existed and glommed on to users wherever they could. The reasons behind this could vary, but are similar to any other type of computer or email spam.
The other less innocent reason for ghost followers on an account, is that many people and businesses alike have been purchasing fake followers to make them appear more popular on Instagram and hopefully gain even more followers from their inflated status. In the world of social media, the more followers one has, the wider influence can be made, and the more the potential worth.
Regardless of where the ghost followers came from, a lot of Instagram users have taken a big hit. Some of the most significantly affected users were celebrities who already had pretty high numbers to begin with. It is not clear who has been purchasing followers and who was merely affected by the spam followers, but people are beginning to speculate based on how drastic the changes were and how the affected users reacted to the change.
A website called 64PX gathered data on the top 100 highly affected Instagram users and what they found was pretty interesting.
Justin Bieber was one affected celebrity who saw his followers drop 3,538,228 in an instant, while Oprah Winfrey lost only 100,000. Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo lost a whopping 9.9 million followers, Kim Kardashian lost 1.3 million.
Rapper Mase (who is now a pastor) took a large hit during the clean up, going from 1.6 million followers to a mere 272,000. He appears to have quickly deleted the account and its records. Other musicians who saw a large drop in their followers were Akon at a 2,459,456 loss, and Bruno Mars at a under a million of 881,383. Ariana Grande lost 1,529,206, Selena Gomez lost 1,116,032, and Rihanna lost 1,159,864.
Even Instagram’s own Instagram account was not immune to the purge, as they reportedly lost close to 19 million followers during the intentional clean up.
There is one user who was hit worst of all, although their identity remains a mystery. User chiragchirag78 had a sizable 3,660,468 followers on Dec. 18, and only eight followers left on Dec. 19. The account has now been deleted altogether.
Speculation aside, it would not be the first time fake users have been utilized by high profile people. Politicians have a history of being caught with padded Twitter accounts in the followers department. During campaign times this can make them appear more popular to voters. Twitter bots can even continue functioning without a human user and can be set to retweet certain keywords, which can completely skew semi popular topics into trending ones.
Fake Instagram accounts did not have the same implications as fake Twitter bots, but they were still considered enough of an issue to do away with them. At this time no real Instagram users were deleted during the sweep, so really only the egos of users were at stake.