According to a report from Vice, performers and entertainers on Instagram have begun returning to the channels with shady “independent” marketing partnerships, exploiting the audience on their platform for extra income.
The celebrities, including the likes of Kanye West, Camila Cabello, Halsey, and Lil Yachty, have been using Instagram-approved stand-alone promotions that claim to apply only to Instagram accounts with 100,000+ followers. But these ads will often be sponsored by a shady app or marketplace — normally available only in the Apple App Store or Google Play — whose terms and conditions prohibit the use of devices running a commercial rival.
On top of that, these “news” stories were often published by the “news” accounts set up by these online-marketing companies to get these accounts’ attention. That means fans aren’t necessarily being exposed to legit publishers or legitimate news outlets. Vice found that 19 celebrities had purchased at least 200,000 posts on Instagram alone to use as supposed promotional content.
The money potentially makes its way to these influencers’ pockets through commissions from sales of products with clauses that apply only to accounts with 100,000 or more followers, as well as perhaps promotions for individuals’ albums or TV shows.
Some of the biggest deals — like West’s sponsored purchase of a TV ad featuring him showing off and using a red plaid shirt — have been reported by Vice. Other sponsorships have paid for car crashes that supposedly show products, like once for a seatbelt announcement.
An Instagram spokesperson told Vice that it had “zero tolerance” for creating unsafe or misleading experiences for its users. “We have clear policies in place to ensure your IG experience is positive,” the spokesperson said. “Improper content is removed from our platform in a moment, and we are seeking partners that share our values and support our actions on unsafe accounts.”