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Instagram’s Growing Bot Problem

By and  |  July 18, 2018 7:01 AM PDT
Photo: Illustration by Mike Sullivan

Instagram, which recently reached a billion users, might have as many as 95 million bots posing as real accounts on its platform, according to a new study conducted for The Information by the research firm Ghost Data.

That tally is somewhat higher than in a similar study the research firm did in 2015. The increase is concerning, experts say, because bots, which are accounts controlled by computers instead of people, are one of the key drivers of the spread of fake news and political propaganda that plagued social networks in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election. While those scandals played out mainly on Facebook as well as WhatsApp and on Twitter, some who study the issue say Instagram could be the next frontier in the war on misinformation. (Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram are all owned by the same company.)

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