Instagram's spam purge reveals high-profile accounts with fake followers

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Instagram made good on its promise to delete spam accounts that have plagued the service and other social networks like Twitter. Sounds like a positive move, right? Well, the sudden evaporation of millions of fake users is enraging Instagram fans who care about things like high follower counts.

Millions of accounts vanished in the Great InstaPurge of 2014, also dubbed the “Instagram Rapture,” and the Instagrammers whose follower counts declined the most were the ones with the highest number of followers. Celebs like Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian, and Beyoncé saw millions of followers disappear on Thursday in the clean-up. In a funny twist, Instagram’s own account was hit the hardest, losing nearly 19 million followers or almost 30 percent of its total follower count.

Despite the fact that the deleted accounts weren’t real people, Instagram users are taking the loss hard.

“I want my followers back!” is a common refrain in the comments on the company’s Instagram posts. “Want more followers? Check out our page,” some Instagrammers reply, trying to draw in real followers by promising help.

Rapper Mase reportedly lost 1.3 million followers in the purge and decided to delete his account altogether.

So why all the fuss about lost followers, which, again, were not real people? Social media popularity is a powerful elixir, and being a popular Instagrammer comes with perks like sponsors and advertising deals.

Instagram had already deactivated the accounts in question but they were still being counted as users—though the company didn’t include the spam accounts in its recent 300 million monthly active user milestone. Instagram hit another major milestone this week: The company is now reportedly valued at $35 billion. A reminder: Facebook scooped up the company for $1 billion, which seemed like a steep sum for a photo-filtering app. Now it looks like Facebook bought Instagram on the clearance rack.

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