While other social apps have been overrun by bots, fake news, and nasty trolls, Instagram has remained largely immune to such abuses. For years, that was due to its relatively small user base, along with its focus on pretty pictures -- with text added only as an afterthought.
Yet that’s starting to change.
Having recently surpassed 1 billion monthly active users, Instagram has emerged as a major mainstream platform. The Facebook unit has also shifted to a video-first strategy, which -- as YouTube executives well know -- attracts misuse in spades. Additionally, Instagram has become a more attractive target simply by virtue of other apps stepping up their security game.
Exposing its vulnerabilities, Instagram was recently the target of what appeared to be a coordinated hacking operation. Among other unwelcome effects, users were locked out of their accounts or saw their profile pictures replaced with animated characters, while some even lost their accounts entirely.
Evidence suggested that Russian hackers might have been involved. For example, some of the victims saw the emails connected to their Instagram accounts changed to Russia’s .ru domain.
In response, Instagram is rolling out a number of new features to better protect users and marketers on its network.
To curb cons and impersonators, the network will now let notable users verify their accounts.
Putting a check on bots and fake accounts, it’s adding a feature to evaluate the authenticity of accounts with large followings, and an improved form of two-factor authentication for more secure log-ins.
Mike Krieger, co-founder and chief technology officer at Instagram, made the company’s intentions clear this week. “Our mission is to bring you closer to the people and things you love,” he explained in a blog post. “That closeness can only happen if Instagram is a safe place.”
For Facebook, keeping Instagram is more important than ever. Per a recent appraisal by Bloomberg, the network is now worth more than $100 billion.
Whether these latest changes are effective in securing Instagram remains to be seen.