If you are in Instagram marketing or account management, you likely heard about recent changes that Instagram made to reduce inauthentic activity on their platform.
In case you used some "powerlike" services, or worse, straight up bought fake likes and/or followers you probably got a notice from Instagram about it, where they ask you to change your password.
While we cannot possibly know what is behind this, or what services they are targeting, we can definitely make some educated guesses.
First, we need to clarify what services are on the market that are considered unsafe or harmful.
SMM Panels, fake like/follower providers: these services offer cheap likes and followers. They usually have a massive amount (fake/bot) accounts that they are sending likes or follows from, these accounts are all created solely for this purpose, they never do any legit activity on Instagram.
"Powerlike" services: most of the powerlike services are just reselling likes and followers from SMM panels (see point 1.), you only need to give your Instagram username and likes will come in. They often claim that this helps you get to the explore page or rank in hashtags; however, this is usually not true.
Like/follow exchange services: these are the most unsafe services since they require you to enter both your Instagram username and password. This is really really bad, and you should never ever use these services as you are giving away full control over your account, including access to DMs, posts and opening up the possibility to send likes and follow other profiles with your Instagram account.
What are the risks?
With SMM Panels (point 1 above) and powerlike providers (point 2), the risks are not really that high, but you will still end up having a lot of fake interactions on your account.
You're probably asking how Instagram knows these likes or followers are fake, right? Well, it's rather easy for them as a few things are giving such activity away: when you are scrolling the Instagram news feed and pause over a post, in a few seconds the app will let Instagram's servers know that you actually have seen that post. This is called an impression. Now, these services are NOT sending such data to Instagram, so they basically detect a lot of accounts liking your posts without actually ever seeing it. That's fishy, right?
Fake followers are even easier to detect: since the accounts that will follow your Instagram when you buy followers have been created exclusively for this purpose, their activity will consist of following random accounts, without ever interacting with them. These bot accounts will never do any legit activity, like browsing their timeline, watching stories or commenting on posts (by commenting I mean legit comments since you can buy fake comments too).
In the age of machine learning and artificial intelligence, it's trivial to detect such fake/bot accounts and just flag them. After that, each interaction they make will be worthless, and the profiles they interact with will also get on the radar.
With like exchange services the risk is even more significant since you lose control over what your account likes, which it follows and in some cases, it can also be used for mass spamming which will definitely result in a disabled account.
I got that message but never used such services
Unfortunately, we've seen cases where people are buying fake likes or followers for their competitors' accounts. If this is the case, you probably have seen a jump in your follower count or a post that had an unusual spike in interactions. Don't worry though, with time, Instagram will remove such activity from your account, and you likely won't have any issues down the road. To be absolutely safe, change your Instagram account's password as they recommend.
It seems like Instagram had finally fine-tuned their algorithms for detecting fake interactions and followers, and they now confidently started to remove them. We're observing accounts that are losing followers at a really high rate for over 2 weeks now.
There are more and more reports of issues with fake like and follower providers.
Unfortunately, these services are just simply lying to their customers to save their business, but in the end, they will go under water.
Our recommendation is to stay away from all the services we mentioned in this post, there is a lot of other tricks and tools you can do to build a great Instagram page with decent engagement.