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Instagram spam purge reveals which celebrities’ followings were real—and which weren’t

If you paid for followers, you likely lost them.


Selena Larson


Posted on Dec 19, 2014   Updated on May 29, 2021, 10:45 pm CDT

Instagram purged a large number of spam accounts from the app this week, and people are seriously unhappy about it. Most people only lost a handful of followers, but some accounts’ spam followers—and thus, lost followers—numbered in the millions.

Developer Zach Allia crunched the numbers of the 100 most-followed Instagram accounts and discovered that the official Instagram profile lost the most followers—18,880,211, or almost 30% of their following. It’s not clear whether those accounts were all spam, or if some people stopped following Instagram out of spite for the company’s spam-account purge. No other account’s follower loss comes near Instagram’s number.

By looking at Allia’s data, we can see who had the most spam accounts, as well as whose accounts are the most authentic. Users can buy Instagram followers as easily as Twitter followers from sites like Buzzoid. Often, these paid followers become an army of spam accounts.

It’s impossible to know who purchased followers, but massive follower drop-offs on relatively no-name accounts suggest that the phenomenon is pervasive. A user named chiragchirag78, whose account has since been deleted, went from almost four million followers to just eight.

Rapper Akon was apparently inundated with spam, too. He went from 4,375,631 to 1,916,385 followers, a loss of 56 percent of his following. Sean Diddy Combs lost over a million followers, or 22 percent, and Justin Bieber lost almost 15 percent of his following, after Instagram purged 3,538,228 accounts that followed the singer.

So which celebrities’ Instagram followers are actually fans? Almost everyone who follows Jennifer Lopez is an authentic account—the recording artist lost just 133,158 accounts, less than two percent of her followers. Shakira is only slightly less authentic, losing 141,239 followers, or 2.6 percent.

The spam account crackdown has understandably upset users.

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But no one said it better than Refinery29.

Goodbye, sweet followers. You were great while you lasted.

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*First Published: Dec 19, 2014, 3:28 pm CST