Facebook this week sued the companies Boostgram and Instant-Fans for allegedly selling fake followers and likes on Instagram.
“Defendants interfered with and continue to interfere with Instagram’s service, created an inauthentic experience for Instagram users, and attempted to fraudulently influence Instagram users for their own enrichment,” Facebook alleges in both lawsuits, which were filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Facebook claims that Boostgram (operated by New York residents) and Instant-Fans (operated by two residents of Dubai) violated the social networking platform's terms of service as well as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which prohibits companies from accessing computer servers without authorization. The lawsuit against Boostgram also includes a claim of trademark infringement.
Boostgram has allegedly offered the “fake engagement” service since at least 2015, while Instant-Fans has allegedly done so since at least 2017.
Both companies used bots to deliver automated likes and followers to Instagram users, Facebook says in its complaint.
Boostgram charged a weekly $31 fee for its service. Instant-Fan's prices varied depending on factors including the number of engagements and quality of comments.
Facebook's complaints included several examples of the fake-engagement service in action.
In one instance described in the lawsuit, on February 22 of this year an Instagram user purchased 2,500 likes, 1,000 followers, and 500 positive comments from Instant-Fans.
That user, who had zero followers at the time, then posted a photo of food. Within two days, the food-photo received around 2,400 likes and 500 comments, and the account gained more than 1,000 followers, according to Facebook. T
he comments were unrelated to the photo, and included remarks like “Congratulations on your success,” and “Wish you the very best,” according to a screenshot included with Facebook's complaint.