The Non-Violence Project Foundation works to inspire, manage, and prevent conflicts, both offline and online, without ever resorting to violence.
Instagram has become a safe space for extremists to radicalize young people, spread hate and misinformation with little consequence, as Instagram only removes 18.8% of hate posts.
Hateful content is proven to be the most engaging, which makes it extremely profitable for Instagram to keep on their platform.
Instagram claims their algorithms can’t identify and remove hateful content automatically.
But their algorithms do automatically remove something else. Accounts that buy fake followers, as fake followers harm Instagram’s business model.
Therefore The Non-Violence Project Foundation set out to silence online hate and incitement of violence to prevent it from happening in the real world, so they created Follow Their Leader.
A crowdfunding platform that buys fake followers for extremist accounts to first shadow-ban them, meaning they won’t get shown in searches or in the feed. And ultimately shut them down
We targeted the most outspoken accounts. Accounts that all directly violated the terms & conditions of Instagram by either spreading hate speech or inciting violence.
We gathered them on our site followtheirleader.com, where people could select the account they wanted to donate to help shut down. When enough money was raised, we bought fake followers through a third-party vendor which instantly bombarded the targeted account with fake followers. The attack triggered Instagram’s algorithm to punish the account.
The campaign was launched in subgroups on Reddit, Whatsapp, Signal, Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook. Where we invited online activists to join the fight against online hate. Without ever alerting the extremist communities.
To reveal our findings to Instagram we sent them an open letter on a billboard truck which played our message for 8 hours straight at their headquarters in San Francisco. We then waited for an answer. Without luck. It left us no choice but to put public pressure on Instagram, by releasing our open letter to the world. Exposing how Instagram prioritizes profit over people.
Follow Their Leader had one goal – to prove Instagram’s algorithms can detect and remove what they believe is harmful to their own platform. And it worked! The platform managed to ban all of the targeted accounts, but most importantly it got us a meeting with the world’s largest social media platform to discuss change.