Does your daughter spend large chunks of her free time on Instagram, following the posts of various stars? Does your son eagerly await the latest videos from his favorite YouTuber? This is not unusual. But how sure can your kids be that these influencers have real followers and honest likes? Fake news is well known, but have you heard of fake influencers?
Fake influencers are alleged influencers who could and can only expand their large reach through purchased followers, likes and comments. Often these “influencers” have more followers through fake accounts than real fans. Likes and comments also come from the purchased accounts.
Or there are so-called “bots” behind the accounts. These are then not people, but programs that post pictures, distribute likes and comments arbitrarily and follow other accounts according to a certain programmed scheme (algorithm). Hoping to get followers who will follow them back, the bot follows hundreds of accounts per day, only to unfollow them again automatically a few days later. These programs can also be linked to specific hashtags. For example, all photos under the hashtag “Love” get the comment: “Great photo!” or similar. A follower community is quickly built up, but it is only bought.
The individual motifs are not always 100% known. But it can be assumed that the fake influencers would like to profit from the benefits of an influencer’s life: Giveaways, paid travel, invitations to events, or even paid promotion of a particular product are attractive. However, since most companies only become aware of an account when it has a reach of more than 10,000 followers, it’s not so easy to profit from it yourself. In contrast, it is not difficult and especially not expensive to buy followers, likes and comments. Often, even small amounts of money are enough to advance your account.
On the Internet, not everything is as it seems. Children and young people should definitely be able to recognize fake influencers, otherwise they may follow people who represent false ideals and morals. It is important that children and young people develop a feeling for what is still real or already fake on the Internet.
Recognizing fake influencers is not as difficult as you might think and, above all, it is possible without the corresponding programs.
How the theory described here looks in reality is shown by two very exciting experiments, at WDR and at Motherboard.