There is a known issue on Instagram with strangers “watching” stories on the platform in an attempt to gain followers. Instagram said it is aware of the problem and will begin to crack down on offenders, according to a report.
Some of the bogus viewers seem real, such as artists with thousands of views. Some are more obviously fake, like Russian models with no followers, and some just simply seem strange or out of place.
There’s even a Reddit thread about why random Russian models seem to watch Instagram stories. When the reporting news outlet reached out to Instagram about the issue, the company said it was trying to figure out how to fix it.
The views are part of an attempt to “growth hack,” or get new followers by pretending to watch stories. There are services that provide fake likes, followers and comments, in which people pay for fake watchers in hopes of getting more followers. The report posited that there are likely banks of phones set up to “watch” stories that probably aren’t being watched by real people at all.
A U.K. social media agency called Hydrogen said that “mass viewing of Instagram stories is the new buying followers of 2019,” in reference to how people used to try gaming the system on Facebook to get more friends.
“Our research has found that several small social media agencies are using this as a technique to seem like they are interacting with the public,” Hydrogen wrote. “This is not a good way to build a community, and we believe that Instagram will begin cracking down on this soon.”
Instagram said it will introduce new measures to combat this type of activity, but didn’t share specifics. As for why the majority of fake watchers tend to be Russian, that is also a mystery.
The only way to directly deal with the issue currently is to change a profile’s setting from public to private.