Behind the company selling fake followers to fight hate accounts on Instagram

Behind the company selling fake followers to fight hate accounts on Instagram
Non-Violence Project

A non-profit organisation has called on Instagram to take immediate action against online hate speech – and has since taken matters into its own hands by using the platform's own algorithm against itself.

The Non-Violence Project Foundation (NVPF) aims to inspire and motivate people to manage and prevent conflicts without ever resorting to violence. They have trained more than nine million students, teachers, sports coaches, athletes and volunteers in more than 30 countries on all five continents.

In a fight against extreme hate online, the NVPF has rolled out a unique initiative that raises money to spam Instagram accounts with fake followers. Why? Essentially, Instagram's algorithm punishes accounts that buy fake followers.

By buying targeted fake followers, the organisation wants to trigger the algorithms to shadow-ban the accounts and ultimately shut them down. Although shadowbanning isn't a term used officially by Instagram, it means that an account does not show up on search results, or can plummet further down on the list.

The aim is to draw attention from the public, regulators, and a call to action from Instagram to act against growing online hate speech. NVPF explained: "While Instagram doesn’t automatically ban hate-spreading accounts, the algorithm does punish accounts that buy fake followers. In this initiative, we are using Instagram’s own algorithm against itself.

"We are targeting hate accounts on Instagram by buying them fake followers, which we believe will trigger the algorithms to shadow-ban the accounts and ultimately shut them down."

Online hate is snowballing into a serious issue with limited knowledge towards how social media platforms tackle the issue. NVPF's mission is to prevent and reduce all forms of violence using awareness and education – especially towards young people.

With a billion monthly active users (32 per cent of which are between the age of 18 and 24), the NVPF have witnessed the birth of hate culture and online harassment affecting young people's self-esteem and self-image.

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"We require Instagram to take more comprehensive measures against hate speech on its platform," they said. "Although Instagram has made a few improvements, often in connection with public criticism, the Non-Violence Project Foundation wants to see a solution on how to curb hate speech in the long term. We are happy to work with Instagram to make that happen."

All of the targeted accounts explicitly violate the terms and conditions of Instagram "by either spreading hate speech or inciting violence" – and much to the organisation's surprise, "should already have been closed by Instagram according to their own terms and conditions."

In short, Instagram aims to be an "authentic" and "safe" platform for "inspiration and expression." According to their website, they advise users to: "Post only your own photos and videos, and always follow the law. Respect everyone on Instagram; don't spam people or post nudity."

They added: "We may work with law enforcement, including when we believe that there's risk of physical harm or threat to public safety."

You can read their full community guidelines here.

Indy100 reached out to Instagram for comment.

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