#IGramEthical - And You? Say No To Social Media Fraud

This is why tech giant's power needs independent monitoring. It feels lovely to achieve results without cheating. I consider myself an algorithmic equity advocate. The most important thing is that no one should ever measure a person’s worth by likes and followers. What I have to say might hopefully encourage many to change their attitude. In previous months I worked on a project where I monitored user behaviour on Instagram. I carried out countless interviews and meetings over breakfasts, dinners, coffees, cakes, emails, and whatsapps, and gained invaluable information. Influencer marketing fraud is a problem.

When I was invited to a magazine launch the social media manager told me that she only works with Instagrammers who have a high following. I told her about my findings and she admitted that she was surprised that Instagram success can be enhanced artificially. You cannot use apps to measure it. Every user can do things to look like a celebrity, you must study Instagram accounts for a good amount of time to be then in a position to assess the results. The amount of likes a photo receives has got nothing to do with quality or with whether you are a nice person. It is mostly all about how “creative” you are in the way you play on Instagram. As an example, on the left is one of my photos that I posted on my account, and on the right when a company featured it on their account.

A large ornate vaulted hall with a checkered black and white floor.


Performance-enhancing activities on Instagram

Sometimes people got upset when I asked them about their work ethics, some even flipped out, and that is something I cannot understand. Today many people using Instagram value fake relationships over real connections. Social media altered their values.

Social Media Cheats/fraudsters belittle all the ones who do not cheat on social media. Content creators who do not cheat are left behind and ignored. With their behaviour, they destroy the income and livelihood of all the ones who keep things fair and who value authenticity. Sadly, that word authenticity is so overused, and not in a good way.

Most tell the world how frustrated they are with the uncontrollable use of shady tricks on Instagram until they join the Social Media Cheats/fraudsters. They feel pressured to play along and fear to lose assignments. How did we end up like this? It is exactly the same as doping in competitive sports. Brands want to see high numbers; hence users engage performance-enhancing measures to deliver. It is all about money. From experience, I can say that no company loves to throw money out the window, and I have the feeling that not many brands are aware of all the performance-enhancing activities that go on behind closed doors.

What exactly are social media marketing fraudsters?

Fraud? Really? Yes. All users who buy followers/auto likes on Instagram or engage in commenting pods and/or follower loops or in any other form of performance-enhancing activities undermine the quality of work of their peers. These people are not social media managers, influencers or strategists; they are social media fraudsters. I want social media to be a lovely place. It is in our hands. Who is interested to be part of a group of ethical Instagrammers? It is all about respect, interaction, and attitude. Let us be honest, trustworthy, responsible people who love the platform and enjoy it and who want to use it to grow, be inspired, inspire and above else, have a good time.

One would think that no one wants to be friends with a robot, and no one needs robot comments. In an ideal world, yes. I just do not want to accept unethical behaviour any longer. We all read the clever tips on how to gain followers, as in for example, like five photos, leave one comment and everybody follows you in rows. No, this is spam behaviour, you are not sincere. There are countless commenting groups, where it's organized to like a photo and comment on each other’s content to simulate high engagement. You can see this when one account always gets the same amount of comments, by the ever-same people. If you jump over to the other person’s account you are going to see soon, that that person gets the ever-same amount of comments, from the probably always ever same people.

That leaves everybody guessing how the ones feel, who do not want to be part of a group like that? It is heartbreaking for all who work hard to make things work. Simulating interest is misleading customers, it is deceptive advertising. Each Instgrammer can change the fake-audience situation into a real-audience one. Why would one pay a person (a fan) to like you? Would you ask strangers on the street to tell you are beautiful? By now I am so far that I often think they would do just that too.

 I Gram Ethical - You too?

 I Gram Ethical and you?

This is important, I have to repeat this, this is not at all about disclosing social media fraudsters. All the cheating bloggers, Tweeps and Instagrammers out there know exactly well who they are. Their secret is safe with me. They can accept awards, job offers, interviews, create campaigns for brands, sit on expert panels, true, but they know they cheated their way into this role and position. These people know they pathetically asked others to like their posts, they know they asked others to follow them so that they would look successful.

 Over time, it became more and more common. Social media fraud in all its colours spreads like a wildfire. Even so many who once spoke out against it are now heavily involved. Shamelessly. Maybe people like ex US President Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson made lying and cheating more normal than as to what it was before they turned up on the world stage. 

Let's Post on Instagram like a friendly Human

We can only change things together, and it would be great if we could do this, no matter whether we belong to a certain group or not. We can leave bad practice behind and start fresh. I ask all social media cheats out there, to do the one and only right thing. Now. Stop pretending you are great and delete your manipulated account and just do as all the others do. Connect and engage like a friendly human.

It is easy, and it is free. Put in the hard work as everyone else does. Stop at once misleading other Instagram users believe you are a celebrity. Keep it real. I cannot just stand by any longer and look on while values and morals are kicked in the face. It would be wrong not to say anything. It wears me down. To say that everybody else behaves badly is no excuse any longer. Instagram invites us to “Sign in to check out what your friends, family & interests have been capturing & sharing around the world.”

How to spot Social Media Fraud

Some examples on how to easily spot social media fraud and cheating. Honestly, it is cringeworthy. Imagine somebody would say this to you in real life, to your face.


-Hey. Looking for likeminded people to engage and connect with. Follow me, leave a few likes and I follow back.


-Just followed and liked some posts.


-Let’s share the love by finding new people to follow in the thread below... We will start, you can find us here: xxx.


I am doing a project with such and such. Bla bla bla, a like and comment on this insta is appreciated.


-Instagram Follow Train. Do not unlike and unfollow. Like and RT this tweet. Drop your link and check out others.


-I am this close to 5,000 followers on Instagram. Drop your link here (on Twitter) and let us connect there.


-Somebody dm’d me about an Instagram follow thread. Let us do it.


-It is my birthday, and as a present I would really like to gain some followers on Instagram.


Use the hashtag #igramethical in all your future posts, if

-you set your own likes,

-your comments are genuine, you are interested, you want to learn about something/someone/somewhere,

-you are not part of a commenting pod,

-you are not part of follower loops (or organize them),

-you follow others because you love their content,

-you are not hiding in the background like a ghost or spy,

-you don’t buy followers,

-you won’t follow users to gain followers and unfollow later,

-you mark promotion as promotion,

-you use relevant hashtags only,

-you are in short considerate towards other people on social media.

It feels lovely to achieve results without cheating

I understand that Instagram wants to make money on the platform; the company has the right to do that. So far, we can all use their service for free. I personally wouldn’t mind if each user will have to pay a monthly fee to use Instagram if that helps everybody to play a fair game.

Tell everybody who might be interested, who can add to this, and who wants a fair Social Media world in the future. I don’t want your likes, follows or applause, this is not a trick. Do one thing that scares you every day? I have just done it. All comments are welcomed. Just spread the word please and be brave enough to use #igramethical for all your future posts. If you are a blogger or Instagrammer and read this now, remember, there is no need to cheat. It is wrong. Don’t be a Trump or Boris Johnson. Remember, you are better. It feels lovely to achieve results without cheating.  

The algorithm - Artificial Intelligence (AI) - Suspended Accounts

Would you trust a company who tells you it is normal that autonomous cars sometimes crash into walls instead of staying on the road? Why do we grant Tech giants the power to take important decisions for us? At one point The Guardian informed its readers that Twitter has confirmed that, if Trump leaves office, he will no longer receive special treatment as a “newsworthy individual”. Twitter says that Policy that protects ‘newsworthy individuals’ from having accounts banned for breaking rules wouldn’t apply to Trump. Update 2021: Twitter deleted Trumps account.

In an ideal world, social media companies and their users would act responsibly. It looks as if social media companies are currently making non-transparent and nonsensical decisions, probably based on AI. The issues we face with Social Media are all about regulation, privacy, and customer communication. Users blame everything on the algorithm and cheating is widely accepted. Can tech giants decide to only publish what they believe is right? A few days ago, I noticed that I cannot post to Instagram with captions. I cannot add text in the caption, and I cannot add hashtags. I received zero explanation for this restriction or should I call it a punishment from Instagram. Soon after, I noticed that I cannot talk to people on Instagram any longer. I received the pop up that ‘this action is blocked.’ I still wonder why.

It is easy to blame the algorithm

In all the years I use Instagram I never bought followers. I never bought likes. I oppose organizing and joining follow loops. I oppose commenting pods. I object like-groups. I oppose everything that is shady and that equals cheating. I went so far as to start an initiative to stop social media fraud. I launched the first hashtag to make a difference and say no to Social Media fraud: #Igramethical. This brought me many enemies. The more I promoted the idea of a fair go, and the more I questioned fraudulent behaviour, and the more I asked people to keep it real, the more enemies I made. Whereas I expected people sharing the idea and using the hashtag in masses. No. It turns out that Social Media is not about being social but about power. People choose to excuse their behaviour by blaming the algorithm. As if somebody would force them to cheat. It is all about data. The algorithm is only as clever as the data we feed it with. That fact overseen by most is that we are as responsible for everything that happens through AI and algorithms as we are for our own actions. What counts is how responsible we act and about how we value ethical behaviour. I believe a fair together on social media is possible. No matter what people say.

Social Media - Account Suspended

In recent weeks, a friend of mine had her account suspended on Twitter. She received no explanation for this whatsoever. Not even after she messaged the company several times. Nothing. As I searched the internet for information, I found others who complained that ‘Instagram Keeps Deleting My Captions’ for example.

We need to write and find articles and come up with tricks on how to get around this. It keeps us awake at night. It makes us worry endlessly about why we are excluded from platforms. As if we are not good enough. It is bullying tactics to indiscriminately exclude users. Instagram takes away the possibility to speak to established contacts on Social Media or to make new contacts. It is as if you would see your friends at a café and you are only allowed to stay behind a glass wall.

Screaming into the void - social media

There is no immediate way to get in contact and ask for help. There is no option for users to make a quick phone call to sort things out, and to clarify the issue. There is no call centre, there is no helpline, there is sort of nothing to get in contact with a real human. You can send these giants as many messages as you like. On the App or by E-Mail. Getting an answer is as unlikely as meeting a dolphin in your bathtub. The other worrying thing is that no one actually knows who is on the other end. We have no clue who the person is who is behind this. Who decides to which extent to restrict a user's mobility on the app? Is it a person or is it a robot?

I wrote several messages like this one: ‘Hello. You are excluding me from this platform for no reason. I do not buy followers. I do not buy likes. I do not organize or take part in commenting pods or follower loops. I have done nothing wrong. It is bullying tactics. Why is that? What is the matter? Why do you ignore all messages I sent?’ Nothing. No answer. I have been screaming into the void.

Social media platforms changed the way we communicate

There are all the ones who say, 'if you do not love these platforms, leave.' I agree wholeheartedly while I also know that it is not that easy. Within only a few years social media platforms shaped and changed the way we communicate. These platform's use is free for all users, I understand that they are eligible to make the rules. Still, everyone alive these days knows leaving them is not a feasible option. Do you want to stay connected with the world? If your answer is yes, you understand what that means. OK, you might say, you are not that important. What are you sharing? Travel inspiration. Info about ethical social media. Supporting local businesses. Living a fair and green life. Who needs to know that? Right. Everyone is their own brand.

It is wrong that users who believe in a fair go are excluded, while accounts who buy or bought their followers, organise commenting pods and like groups or follow loops are using the platforms. The algorithm believes these are the accounts users want to interact with. Users (humans) ignore the fact that the ones who do not cheat will not get a chance to compete. They ignore that they are taking away opportunities from all the ones who use social media honestly and with integrity. Another thing. There are accounts who pay money for content visibility. Why does Instagram not care about that? Why does Instagram exclude me and hinders these paying companies to win me over as a customer? Instagram does neither show to care about the fact that customers/readers are deceived by falsified high numbers of accounts.

Writing and publishing in the hope information shared is relevant

Imagine this. If Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter would decide to not share information from your favourite lifestyle magazine, or content and news from David Attenborough or from established newspapers. How would this make you feel? Worst case. The tech giants decide to only publish what they believe is right. We will not know what type of misinformation they might spread. Journalists and content creators should all just share relevant information. Writing and publishing and sharing information in the hope for the article to generate clicks and to go viral is wrong.

Tech giant’s power needs independent monitoring

In an ideal world, social media users would act responsibly. They would make sure to not harm others with their behaviour. This is not going to happen. Same goes for tech giants. They want our data and generate as much income as possible. The protection of citizens is imperative. We cannot accept that the success of one company is more important than an individual’s wellbeing. It seems that social media companies are currently making non-transparent and nonsensical decisions based on AI or on their gut instinct, and that makes me believe that the situation is out of hand.

If we compare the current situation of how Instagram handles machine learning and how the automotive industry handles it, it gets rather interesting. The automotive industry works on making autonomous driving a reality. It gets better and better with every single piece of data they collect, and autonomous driving gets safer due to the collected data. They simulate situations over and over in tests to reach the ideal outcome. They do not want their cars to crash into walls.

Instagram apparently ignores what they learn. They do not adjust their system in line with data collected. It is questionable whether they work with feedback to improve the user experience. They support fraudulent behaviour by accepting accounts on their platform who cheat. There is no other explanation for it. If the industry would act like Instagram, they would simply let all (e.g.) cars drive into obstacles, walls, or pedestrians and sell this as the new normal.

The tech giant’s power needs independent monitoring, social media platforms need stricter regulations. Users need to be made aware of what the consequences of their behaviour might be and how it affects their peers. Let us proudly believe in a fair world and remember how powerful we are as humans.

There is nothing naive about it. “Honesty is a very expensive gift. Don't expect it from cheap people”. Warren Buffet surely knows what he is talking about, but it is never too late to change. Tech giants most probably want us to behave in a certain way so that they can gain more data. We better never accept that these tech giants decide about what gets published. We all know from history books what the misuse of power can do to our world.

Ethical social media strategy. Please contact me so that we can start working on your ethical social media strategy.

Visit Instagram, meet me, aka The Touristin, and follow the hashtag to see who already grams ethical

Read what I wrote about Influencer Marketing for Ethical Influencers and Hype Auditor Working with ethical social media marketers is better for brands.

From Berlin with love