According to a report by Tenable, a cybersecurity research firm, many of these "porn bots" are coming up with new techniques to avoid being detected by Instagram's security systems. This may come as a surprise, but that includes using lines from Game of Thrones in their image captions -- which tricks Instagram's systems into thinking they're being written by a real person, not a bot. Facebook says the challenge with this is that it needs to ensure that the methods it puts in place to fight spam, as well as other inauthentic engagement, doesn't end up affecting real people. For instance, Facebook said, it's difficult to train technology to tell the difference between a Game of Thrones comment coming from a normal user like you and another from an account that might be fake.
But these porn bots aren't just using pop culture reference to try to make it harder for Instagram to distinguish between them and an authentic user: They're also leaving comments with weird spacing between letters and grammatical errors. The reason spammers might format their comments this way is because, in 2016, Instagram started letting people filter words out of post comments. So, while it may be easy for someone like Teigen to block the word "masturbation" from showing up in her posts, "M A S T U R B A T I O N!" may require a little more work on the user's part.
Facebook says it is fully aware of spam/porn bots on Instagram, noting that it is investing more in research to better understand how these bad actors are evading its systems. And, more importantly perhaps, the company says it is working to build tools to get rid of these bots more quickly and efficiently. "Nobody likes receiving spammy follows, likes and comments," a Facebook spokesperson said to Engadget. "It's really important to us that the interactions people have on Instagram are genuine, and we're working hard to keep the community free from spammy behavior. Bad actors continue to do everything they can to get around the measures we're putting in place, and it's our job to stay one step ahead."
Satnam Narang, the author of Tenable's report, says these porn bots are now so sophisticated that not only can they like your pictures or comment on them, but they can even slide into your direct messages. Regardless of how they try to interact with you, though, the intention is always the same: to peddle dubious dating and webcam sites for adults. "To its credit, Instagram has worked to try to thwart the efforts of the operators of these porn bot accounts," he said. "But, as you can imagine, it is a cat-and-mouse game."