Likes, Followers and Users are Producing Billions on Internet’s Black Market

Carving out a following on a social media platform like Instagram and TikTok can be a challenge. Starting from scratch means finding your niche, connecting with the people who want to see your content, and creating enough content at a steady rate to keep users coming back for more … until you get “shadowbanned” for too much content.

But there’s a secret shortcut that influencers don’t talk about: you can buy an already-established account. In order to skip to the front of the line, aspiring social media influencers can purchase accounts with thousands, even millions of users, that already fit their genre and segue it into their own brand.

And cash in on posting products, “A common formula used by some is charging brands A$100 for every 10,000 followers they have.”

Sponsorships are nothing new, but Instagram takes it to epic (and bloated) levels. Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo for instance, “is purported to charge US$1.6 million … per sponsored post. Coming in at a close second was Dwayne Johnson, boasting 303 million followers and asking US$1.52 million … per sponsored post.”

Strict regulations are in place to stop this exchange of people-for-products from careening out of control, and sponsored posts have to be clearly marked as such.

But there’s some shady shit happening anyway. When you click on a user’s profile, if you see they have 30K users you’re going to believe they’re more of an authority (or at least more famous) than someone with 5K. But what if 28K of those users are purchased, and the other user earned all 5K on their own?

In the end, it shows that influencer fame means jack-all. Market Herald adds, “Although you may think of the black market being used strictly for illicit drugs, social media accounts are now being bought and sold under the table too.”

Instagram’s Terms and Conditions read, “You can’t sell, license or purchase any account or data obtained from us our Service. This includes attempts to buy, sell or transfer any aspect of your account (including your username).”

And since people always follow the rules, that could never happen on Instagram. Except for the fact that it happens every second.