Early Thursday morning, news broke that popular Instagram botting service Instagress had been shut down. Their website shared the following explanation:
“Sad news to all of you who fell in love with Instagress: by request of Instagram we were forced to close our web-service that helped you so much in your Instagram journey. We are all very sad of that but it looks like there is nothing we can do at the moment.”
On Twitter, Instagress made the same announcement, and made few additional comments, the most noteworthy being that “Insta’ is a registered trademark.” This has led some to speculate that Instagress shuttered just because of the name and not because of what their botting services do. But to be clear, the use of bots to follow or comment for you is in violation of Instagram’s Terms of Service, and Instagram has made past attempts, although largely ineffective ones, to eradicate bots and spam (remember the great purge of 2014?)
I did some digging into several forums, and found one person who reported that they were able to eventually log back into their account on the Instagress website Thursday afternoon, and were greeted by some sort of message claiming “their public site got shut down because of their name sounds [sic] so close to Instagram that’s the reason why.”
We may find out that there's more to the story in the coming days, but frankly it doesn’t matter. We’re all better off taking this as a sign that Instagram is cracking down on automation and spam.
So to all of the people who are immediately asking for suggestions for alternatives to Instagress…
Conversely, I’m happy to see a large swath of people rejoicing over the shutdown and singing praises for a return to authentic engagement. On the whole, botting services are slimy and undermine any sort of legitimacy for Instagram accounts. Follower counts become meaningless, bot comments like “nice!” or “love it!” annoy the $hit out of real users, and inflated statistics are becoming a real problem in the influencer marketing space.
Some Instagress users have played the “pity me” card by claiming that using bots has allowed them to spend less time on their phones and more time with their family, or allowed them to grow a following while working a demanding full time job. Others have tried to rationalize their use by stating that they never use the infuriating follow/unfollow feature, and only gave out likes and comments, to other people’s benefits. And if you’re one of those people, let me just stop you right there.
I read a woman’s story in a Facebook group about how she shared with her audience about her miscarriage, and someone using a bot commented “Nice one!” or something of that nature. She was irate, with reason. Then just yesterday, my friend posted about getting injured while working out, and someone presumably using a bot commented “*4 clapping emojis* wowzer, that’s dope af,” to which he responded “I got hurt lol. Not dope.” A creator we work closely with was recently asking how to get a bot company to stop inflating her metrics. Even after she had asked them to stop they kept doing it.
Those are just three examples from recents days/weeks within my own circle. There have to be countless more instances of idiotic, insensitive and unwanted bot comments that I haven’t myself encountered. So next time you try to rationalize your bot usage, remember that.
Even if Instagress is gone for good, the fight is far from over. There are still several botting services chugging along, and people will keep coming up with ways to hack the system (e.g. I saw some people comment on threads that they have coded their own personal bots). Realistically, it will forever be a game of whack a mole. However, between this shutdown and the recent shadowbanning phenomenon, it appears that Instagram is truly making moves to get rid of the garbage on the platform.
What do you think? Have you used Instagress? Or do you hate bots and fake accounts as much as I do? Send me an email at sarah[at]snapfluence.com and let me know.
Creative Community Developer at Snapfluence.
I'm the Oxford comma's biggest fan.