In the past few days I have noticed a HUGE surge in stolen posts from me by bot accounts. They heavily feature a number of other people’s’ posts that I recognise, too.
I’ve reported them over and over and over - please if you see these report them as spam if nothing else, and don’t give them any engagement (likes or comments).
I’m now following Louise Tilbrook's lead and using less-known hashtags, e.g. #knitsnotbots #ukknitters #creativesofinstagram #knittersofravelry #crochetnotbots and more (Louise has lots of good suggestions). By doing that we can all connect with genuine accounts.
After posting this ^^ on Instagram and Facebook at the weekend I saw a lot of recurring questions and comments on my post, and I thought it would be useful to address them here.
What does this even mean??
A ‘bot account’ is basically a fake account being run by a computer (hence ‘bot’ from the word ‘robot’).
Why are they doing this?
I believe it’s purely about numbers - they are computer programs set to search the most popular hashtags for the most popular posts to create an account with content, then use these accounts to sell followers. I don’t know for definite - if anyone does and can confirm then please do let me know.
How do I spot these accounts?
There are a number of things that give them away - they use totally wrong hashtags, eg #tshirtyarn on something that is clearly not t-shirt yarn; you’ll see the same photos used by lots of different accounts; and they usually have a vague and meaningless ‘quote’ as their info.
Louise points out: “if you look through their feed you’ll see photos from a range of designers and yarn stores. Often they use the words “tag a friend” or “tap to like”. They often repost their entire caption - in a different language. There’s no consistency to the posts as you would see with a genuine person. They post regardless of context - so giving details of a giveaway that ended weeks ago, or seasonal stuff that’s not appropriate. Once you look closely you’ll be amazed at hoe prevalent they are.”
How do you know?
The best way to see that this is happening is by following well-used hashtags, as that’s how they are finding the posts to steal. Unfortunately my Instagram account has never updated to allow me to follow hashtags, so I only find out about my stolen posts when people tell me about them.
What can I do?
The simplest thing you can do is tap the three little dots on the top right of a post, select ‘report’, then select ‘It’s spam’. However… it seems that posts and accounts reported using this method are not often removed, despite many people reporting them. I still think it’s worth doing though - it literally takes a second.
For reporting the bot accounts @thefibrenerd recommends selecting ‘report’ then selecting ‘It’s Inappropriate’, then ‘I believe this account violates community guidelines’, then ‘report account’, then ‘posting spam’. It’s more convoluted but apparently gets better results.
You cannot report an account for copyright violation unless you are the copyright holder, so reporting it as spam is the best way to do something useful.
Saying that, I’ve heard rumour that the posts being reported as spam can be damaging to the original copyright holder, too.. so I would love to know if that’s true.
What can you do?
As the copyright holder I can report every single post and account that steals my work. However… it’s a frustratingly long and arduous task to do this - I’ve screenshot some of the process below and you can see that we have to provide links to the copied work, the original work, we have to provide our full name, address, and email address which WILL then be passed onto the fake account (that really grates as you can imagine), and quite frankly I think it’s disgraceful that it’s this complex to report something so simple.
I am now checking every single new follower I get; however that’s a fairly big job as well as I get new followers fairly constantly. And I definitely can’t go through the 19,200+ that I already have to try and find any bot accounts amongst them. Checking new followers and blocking the bots should help but it doesn’t 100% stop them.
It’s also an option to make my account private - I could totally do that, but I don’t particularly want to close myself off like that.
@Hunterhammersen suggests using #stolenfrom[name] on the posts to track them. I think this is a great idea and will be doing it. She has a HUGE list of stolen photos that she has submitted to instagram, and as she’s pointed out recently on Twitter, “I start my morning on many days by reporting a list of stolen photos like this” (accompanied by a screenshot of the reporting page I showed you earlier, with a list of all the URLs to the copies).
Whilst this is annoying, it hasn’t yet put me off using Instagram - it’s just made me think more carefully about the hashtags I use and who I allow to follow me. In fact it’s made me engage and connect MORE with real people, because of using the smaller hashtags, so that’s wonderful. Please don’t let it put you off either; just be vigilant about following real people - they’re much better.
What I would like to see, and what I think we should be appealing for is for Instagram to crack down faster on posts and accounts that are reported as spam; they should also make it MUCH easier to report copyright infringements - they claim it is our responsibility, which is fine but they need to make it much easier.
Additionally, and more contentiously, I would like to see Instagram become a paid-for platform where users can choose whether to see either top posts or chronological posts, no adverts, and crucially - there are almost-no fake bot accounts (of course people will always find a way around preventative measures but perhaps instagram could spend the money they’d earn on making sure that spam is at an absolute minimum).
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I’ve quoted a few people in this, so I’d like to give you the direct links to them on Instagram - they are real, I promise!
Louise Tilbrook is at https://www.instagram.com/louisetilbrookdesigns/
Leanne is at https://www.instagram.com/thefibrenerd/
Hunter Hammersen is at https://www.instagram.com/hunterhammersen/
And of course I am at https://www.instagram.com/edencottageyarns/