Instagram to remove fake likes and follows

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Instagram wants to get real. The Facebook-owned social media platform said Monday that it will immediately start purging fake likes, follows and comments from accounts that use third-party applications to draw attention online.

"Recently, we've seen accounts use third-party apps to artificially grow their audience," Instagram said in a post on its corporate blog. "Every day people come to Instagram to have real experiences, including genuine interactions. It is our responsibility to ensure these experiences aren't disrupted by inauthentic activity."

The announcement comes amid intense public scrutiny on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites following revelations that Russian intelligence operatives used false accounts to published inaccurate reports in a bid to influence the 2016 presidential election.

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Instagram has also become an important forum for celebrities, advertisers and brands to promote themselves online. That includes using popular Instagram users, known as social media influencers, to peddle a product to their many followers. 

Instagram said that it has developed what it described as "machine-learning" technology to identify accounts that use third-party apps that generate phony likes and follows, calling this practice "bad for the community." Such practices violate the site's community guidelines and terms of use, Instagram said, noting that it has long removed fake accounts.

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Instagram said it would send a message to account holders who use such services notifying them that that any fake forms of engagement have been removed.

Facebook, which is at the center of the controversy over the spread of inauthentic content on the internet, bought Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion.