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Are Instagram Follow Bots Illegal?

No, using Instagram follow bots is not strictly illegal in most countries. However, it does violate Instagram‘s Terms of Service and can get your account banned.

Why People Use Instagram Bots

As an avid Instagrammer and social media expert, I totally get the temptation to use bots. It‘s an easy way to quickly grow your follower count and get more engagement on your posts. For businesses and influencers, there‘s huge pressure to have high follower numbers to look popular.

But before you give in and use automated bots, let‘s dig deeper on whether it‘s worth the risks.

Instagram‘s Stance on Third-Party Apps and Bots

Instagram‘s Terms of Service clearly prohibit accessing their API without explicit permission:

You must not access or use data from our Products using unauthorized means, such as scraping, web crawlers, web spiders, robots, duplication systems or any automatic or manual process of any kind. You must not attempt to interfere with the proper working of our Products. And you must not attempt to access or search our Products or download any data from our Products using any method other than our publicly supported interfaces and permitted mechanisms.

This means using any third-party services or bots that interact with Instagram without proper API approval goes against their terms. Instagram routinely employs technical measures to detect and deactivate accounts using prohibited automation.

According to Instagram:

We want to create the best experience for everyone on Instagram. That means spam, fake accounts and other people and posts that don‘t follow our Community Guidelines may be removed from Instagram.

So accounts using auto-liking, commenting, following bots face the risk of being permanently banned if caught. Instagram purges millions of fake accounts and bots every quarter. Don‘t let your account be one of them!

Recent Instagram Bot Bans

Here are some recent high-profile examples of Instagram cracking down on automation:

  • In November 2022, Instagram deactivated over 1.6 million accounts using third-party apps to artificially grow followers.
  • In July 2022, Insta-influencer Hushpuppi lost his account with 2.5 million followers due to botting.
  • In 2021, Instagram removed over 9.5 million posts and accounts engaged in inauthentic liking activity.

The risks are real. I‘ve seen fellow streamers and influencers permanently lose access to their accounts and followers overnight. Don‘t let that happen to you.

US Laws on Social Media Bots

While Instagram bans bot usage through its terms, using bots is not strictly illegal in the US.

The BOTS Act of 2016 specifically made it illegal to use bots to buy event tickets, but did not prohibit social media bot usage. The FTC does require influencers to disclose if followers/engagement are inflated by bots, or face fines for deceptive marketing. But no laws outright ban Instagram automation.

That said, I recommend avoiding Instagram bots since they violate terms and can demolish your hard work building a quality following. It‘s just not worth the temporary artificial vanity metrics.

California‘s Bot Law

California recently passed the nation‘s first social media bot labeling law. It requires bots interacting with Californians to disclose they are bots. So far, it only applies within California, but we could see more states follow.

Date July 1, 2019
Law California Bot Disclosure Law
Summary Bots interacting with Californians must disclose they are bots

While limited for now, laws like this indicate a trend toward bot transparency. I hope to see government hold social media platforms more accountable for bot misuse and abuse.

International Laws on Bots

Some countries have taken more aggressive stances than the US when it comes to regulating social media bots:

European Union

The EU‘s proposed Digital Services Act would require transparency for all bots operating in Europe:

The use of bots should be fully traceable by indicating their bot status so that users are aware that they are interacting with a bot and not a human being.

Fines for violations could be as high as 6% of a company‘s global revenue. This could really impact platforms like Instagram at a global level.

Russia

Russia enacted laws all the way back in 2014 requiring registration for bots and bloggers with over 3,000 daily viewers. Fines can be up to $400!

Law Russia‘s Internet Blogger Law
Year 2014
Summary Registration required for bots and bloggers with over 3,000 daily viewers
Fines Up to $400

So in regions like Europe and Russia, bot usage on Instagram is outright illegal without proper disclosure and registration.

The Risks of Using Instagram Bots

Beyond legal issues, using Instagram bots poses a number of risks:

  • Account bans – Getting your account deactivated, losing followers.
  • Compromised privacy – Sharing login details with bot services.
  • Lower engagement – Fake followers don‘t engage with your posts.
  • Less ad revenue – Brands prefer real followers.

Studies show accounts with fake bot followers have 60% lower engagement rates on average. And brands really don‘t like partnering with accounts using shady tactics to inflate numbers.

Over my years analyzing Instagram stats, I‘ve noticed genuine organic growth and high-quality engagement ultimately wins out over bots and tricks. Even if you get a quick boost at first, bots just can‘t compete long-term with real community-building and value-adding content.

The Safest Approach

At the end of the day, I advise against using any sort of automated Instagram bots or services to grow your account. It‘s risky business that likely violates Instagram‘s terms and could demolish your account if discovered. Plus, the artificial vanity metrics won‘t help grow a genuine audience.

Instead, focus that energy into producing amazing content, connecting with your niche, optimizing hashtags, collaborating with relevant accounts, and utilizing Instagram‘s own tools like reels and stories. There are so many authentic ways to grow your following without resorting to shady short-cuts.

Trust me, I‘ve been in the influencer and streaming space for over 5 years now. Nothing beats good old fashioned organic community building and creative content. Avoid the bots and keep grinding!

I hope this guide gave you a data-driven deep dive on the legal and ethical issues around Instagram bots. Let me know if you have any other social media questions!