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Instagram asking users to verify their identities with video selfies to make sure they’re not bots

Instagram is asking some users to upload video selfies in an attempt to cut down on the number of bots on the site.

The Meta-owned social network started making the request back in August 2020, but it paused the program soon thereafter after running into some technical issues, according to XDA Developers.

Screenshots posted by several insiders this week, however, indicate it’s still engaging in the practice to some extent.

In a series of tweets Tuesday evening, Instagram’s PR team said the company introduced video selfies more than a year ago ‘to help confirm that there’s a person behind an account, and not a bot.’

Accounts that act suspiciously — including liking lots of posts or following a ton of accounts ‘in a matter of seconds,’ according to the Instagram Comms team — may be asked to provide a video.

According to Instagram, the platform is not using a facial recognition program or collecting biometric data and the clips are deleted within 30 days of being posted. 

Instagram did not immediate return a request for comment about video selfies. 

On Monday social media expert Matt Navarra posted a screenshot of a video selfie request from Instagram. The social media platform says it makes the requests to help root out bot accounts

Social media consultant Matt Navara tweeted a screenshot of one request for a video selfie on Monday.

That same day, VICE writer Bettina Makalintal tweeted an image of a help screen directing the recipient of a selfie request to turn their head in different directions.

‘This helps us confirm that you’re a real person and confirm your identity,’ the prompt reads.

According to XDA Developers, only newly created accounts are receiving these requests for video selfies.

VICE writer Bettina Makalintal tweeted an image of a help screen prompt directing the recipient of a video selfie request to turn their head in different directions

VICE writer Bettina Makalintal tweeted an image of a help screen prompt directing the recipient of a video selfie request to turn their head in different directions

Bots have been an issue on Instagram sites for some time.

In 2019, Engadget reported on spam comments flooding the accounts of LeBron James, Kylie Jenner and other pages with millions of followers.

The fake comments can be bolstered with hundreds of inauthentic likes, pushing them to the top of the comment thread.

In an October 2020 Instagram post from Demi Lovato, (above) the top comment was from a bot, asking 'How well do you know your man? Search his number on my bio and prepare yourself for the results.'

In an October 2020 Instagram post from Demi Lovato, (above) the top comment was from a bot, asking ‘How well do you know your man? Search his number on my bio and prepare yourself for the results.’

The site Better Marketing used Demi Lovato as a case study in bot behavior: An October 16, 2020 Instagram post from the pop singer encouraged her 118 million followers to make sure they were registered to vote.

Within 15 hours of being uploaded, the post already received more than 829,000 likes. But the second highest comment, with 530 likes, was one asking ‘How well do you know your man? Search his number on my bio and prepare yourself for the results.’

In a series of tweets Tuesday evening, Instagram's PR team said the company introduced video selfies more than a year ago 'to help confirm that there's a person behind an account, and not a bot'

In a series of tweets Tuesday evening, Instagram’s PR team said the company introduced video selfies more than a year ago ‘to help confirm that there’s a person behind an account, and not a bot’

New accounts with suspicious activity, including following 'a ton of accounts in a matter of seconds' may receive a video selfie request, according to the Instagram Comms team

New accounts with suspicious activity, including following ‘a ton of accounts in a matter of seconds’ may receive a video selfie request, according to the Instagram Comms team

Often bot comments are linked to fake accounts with lewd images egging users to sign up for pornographic websites.

Others promise to boost an Instagrammer’s following by the thousands for only a few dollars, or to sell them a much-valued blue verification badge.

‘Some of these Instagram pages will go as far as to post Stories to make people think they’re from a real human, but like their comments, they’re usually riddled with typos and look as if they were made with Microsoft Paint,’ Engadget’s E. Alvarez wrote in his 2019 story. ‘”Did you think I’m an bot account?” read one Story. ‘”1 luckiest follower will date with me tomorrow, all day you can do anything to me.” We found the different pages had anywhere from zero followers to somewhere in the hundreds.’

The Instagram account Bot Police, which has more than 420,000 followers, encourages users to tag it under a suspected bot comment.

Bot Police then reports the comment and works to get the spam account banned. 

In a November 2018 blog post addressing inauthentic likes, follows and comments generated by third-party apps, Instagram announced it was ‘taking a number of steps to limit this kind of unwelcome behavior.’

‘Starting today, we will begin removing inauthentic likes, follows and comments from accounts that use third-party apps to boost their popularity,’ the post read.

Often bot comments are linked to fake accounts with lewd images egging users to sign up for pornographic websites. Others promise to boost an Instagrammer's following by the thousands for only a few dollars, or to sell them a much-valued blue verification badge

Often bot comments are linked to fake accounts with lewd images egging users to sign up for pornographic websites. Others promise to boost an Instagrammer’s following by the thousands for only a few dollars, or to sell them a much-valued blue verification badge

It also indicated Instagram had developed ‘machine learning tools to help identify accounts that use these services and remove the inauthentic activity,’

‘This type of behavior is bad for the community,’ the post added, ‘and third-party apps that generate inauthentic likes, follows and comments violate our Community Guidelines and Terms of Use.’ 



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