This is the truth behind Instagram porn bots

This is the truth behind Instagram porn bots

Remember when Instagram purged bot accounts in 2014? Like many people, I’d built my humble following in the heady days of spammy hashtags and endless filters. I therefore lost about half of my followers and Instagram have performed other purges since. However, that doesn’t seem to have stopped a new generation of Instagram bot from invading the app.

“I’m alone and horny” the aptly-named Randee Illard tells me over direct message one afternoon. Stating that she just wants to “personal speak” on her naked cam, I’m directed to the link in her bio. Somewhere between the fixer and the main attraction, she adds “in addition, you could connect a lot of other very hot girls once I don’t online”.

This is perhaps a vague reference to the fact that many of these accounts operate on a “churn and burn” basis, often getting shut down before any real fan base can be built. Not so for Randee, though, who has 10,000 followers.

A girl on a laptop Credit: Getty

If you dare follow the link you will be met with a website which redirects to another site and then to a third site once you confirm that you want to meet hot girls in your area. The continuity lacking, the proposition has changed somewhat by this point.

With so many accounts sending the same link to new followers, this pattern would be easily picked up by Instagram’s spam filters. However, the redirects form a band of protection around the destination site, helping to prevent these bot accounts from being identified and shut down.

Almost anyone can work with these websites as an affiliate, and will usually work on a PPL (pay per lead) or PPS (pay per sale or sign-up) basis. One of the most popular adult affiliate marketing websites is CrakRevenue, where you can earn a cool $5 per email sign-up, as per the PPS model. On certain "black hat" websites, you can even purchase "packs" of images of girls - so as to appear legitimate.

A girl taking a selfie Credit: Getty

“Adult entertainment is [a] 100-billion-dollar industry and, as such, it involves a lot of advertising,” explains Xavier Santana of affiliate marketing website Mobidea. “More importantly, adult entertainment isn’t limited only to sleazy and x rated stuff. Other huge sources of possible revenue? Dating and matchmaking sites, apps, and platforms. Indeed, there are a whole lot of affiliate marketing verticals to choose from!” He adds: “Men visiting these sites generally want to interact with that male fantasy of what women are like, which is of course a far cry from the real thing.”

Clearly, there is an entire industry centred on getting people to these websites and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s usually not people from the websites themselves posing as permanently aroused 21-year-old women.

“As you might expect, the adult niche is a bit of a high-risk, high-reward game,” Santana muses. “If you’re an adult affiliate, you know the playing field is rife with hackers, scammers, and other no-gooders, but a brave and intrepid soul can really make a fortune here.”

A 'XXX' neon sign Credit: Getty

“Not only can these guys target you and potentially damage your revenue,” he adds, “the whole niche has a bit of a bad reputation (of course this goes more for porn sites than dating sites) so it’s a bit of an uphill battle to create a reputable, stable site that will work perfectly.

“If you do your homework and pay attention,” Santana concludes, “the adult niche in affiliate marketing can be an awesome business opportunity that can turn into ridiculous amounts of money on a fairly modest budget.”

However, the proliferation of bots on the internet is nothing new. Anyone old enough to recall SmarterChild on MSN Messenger will have fond memories of bizarre conversations with a chatbot which seemed like a real person but was lacking that one thing that makes us human - emotion.

Two humanoid robots view a laptop Credit: Getty

It is strange to think that there are now thousands of such “bots” mimicking human behaviour so successfully that they are sometimes thought to be real people. Working specifically with Twitter users, a piece of software called BotOrNot aims to reveal whether these purported people are, in fact, real.

“It doesn’t take much time to distinguish fake Twitter followers from real, even if you have thousands of them,” the BotOrNot website explains. “Nowadays, there are proven bot detection technologies that help you with this task. BotOrNot is a perfect Twitter bot detector that able to spot fake followers on Twitter with high [levels] of accuracy.”

“Moreover, with the help of BotOrNot you can not only recognise fake followers but unfollow them immediately on our website,” they continue. “Not sure if [a] user is real or fake? Check the account with BotOrNot and leave only effective audience. Stop collecting fake followers.”

BotOrNot website screenshot Credit: BotOrNot

Of course, many of the fake or “bot” accounts on social media platforms don’t have any form of conversational software built in. But it’s the ones that do which are by far the most convincing.

“Between 10 and 11% of the users involved in conversations around the election are flagged as bots,” explained Professor Emilio Ferrara to the Guardian last year. As principal investigator in machine intelligence and data science at the University of Southern California, Ferrara knows what he’s talking about. “That is significantly less than in 2016 when it was something like 20%. The pessimistic interpretation is that our bot-detection systems are not picking up the more sophisticated bots, which look just like humans even to the eyes of the algorithms.”

Needless to say, the best advice is to steer clear of any automated-seeming account on Instagram. If you’re wondering whether the person you’re speaking to is human or not, you can ask Turing test-style questions like: “Is the difference between a fish purely that one of its legs are both the same?” Of course, if there really is a person on the other end, they might be a bit freaked out.