Red Flags Ignored: Unchecked Rule-Breaking Floods Instagram Ads

Instagram is ablaze with popularity, but rule-breaking scammy ads are burning a hole in user trust.

Scroll through your perfectly curated Instagram feed. It’s a sun-drenched paradise, with influencers flaunting perfect smiles, curated vacation snaps screaming wanderlust, and sleek product ads. Like it or not, Instagram has become an essential part of our daily lives. However, the ease of creating accounts and posting content has also led to a rise in rule-breaking and unethical behavior. Under the shimmering surface, a storm is brewing. The propogation of spammy and misleading ads on Instagram.

Instagram Logo

This isn’t a dystopian future. It’s happening today:the Instagram ad landscape of 2023. Red flags are being ignored. Scammy apps and get-rich-quick schemes leer from behind the polished filters, with their empty promises echoing louder than ever. Tens of thousands, possibly millions, of users scroll through a minefield of misinformation. The platform that they once loved for genuine connections and artistic expression has morphed into a marketplace of deceit. The line between truth and trickery has blurred beyond recognition.

These ads often target vulnerable individuals, including children and young adults, using manipulative tactics to grab people’s attention and convince them to click on links or provide personal information. They not only harm the individuals who engage with them but also contribute to the overall negativity and distrust of social media platforms. They make it difficult for genuine businesses to reach their intended audiences.

With a user base this large and powerful algorithms, it is Instagram’s basic responsibility to filter out harmful content. Yet, these scams continue to exist, raising a few crucial questions:

Is Meta purposefully turning a blind eye?
Can anything be promoted on Instagram?
Is Meta truly protecting its users?

We took a small dive into the murky waters of Instagram’s ad ecosystem.


The ad review process

Our ad review system is designed to review all ads before they go live. This system relies primarily on automated technology to apply our Advertising Policies to the millions of ads that run across our apps. While our review is largely automated, we rely on our teams to build and train these systems, and in some cases, to manually review ads.

Ad content

Ensure that your ads don’t:

  • Promote misleading or deceptive practices or products in any capacity.
  • Make potentially misleading claims or set unrealistic expectations.
  • Include low-quality content (for example, using sensationalised or exaggerated language or withholding key information to entice someone to click on the ad).
Get Rich Quick schemes and fake betting Instagram Ads.

Your website

If your ad links to a website, ensure that:

  • It’s functioning properly.
  • It doesn’t contain sexually suggestive, shocking, misleading or disruptive (e.g. pop-up ads) content.
Fake Landing page.
Instagram ads leading to fake landing pages for Android and Apple users.

And a lot more of fake Telegram landing pages.

Online gambling and gaming

Ads that promote online gambling and gaming are only allowed with our prior written permission. Authorised advertisers must follow all applicable laws and include targeting criteria consistent with Meta’s targeting requirements.
Instagram Scam Ad on fake US lottery, shown to Indian users. Violating Online Gambling rules
Instagram Promoted Ads. Violating Gambling Guidelines.

Fake endorsements & Reputed Brand Logos

Using a Fake Celeb Endorsement, and Reputed Brand logos.

A basic analysis revealed something very interesting: many of these seemingly “Instagram” ad accounts lacked their own Instagram presence. Instead, they seemed to operate directly from Facebook.

Fake ad promoters lacked their own Instagram presence.

The deeper we dug, we found that the vast majority of the links provided in these ads directed users to websites related to betting, deceptively polished fake landing pages resembling the Google Play Store and Apple App Store that appear native and convincing within Instagram’s webview, or phishing scams posing as official Telegram sites. Without proper scrutiny of the URLs, users may struggle to identify these fraudulent links.

Exploiting the power of familiar faces and reputable logos, scammers weave a web of trust to lure unsuspecting users with AI-powered celebrity endorsements and stolen brand identities, blurring the lines between truth and deceit.

A quick glance won’t do it anymore, only a thorough URL inspection can expose the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Can anything be promoted on Instagram?

The answer, unfortunately, seems to be yes. This lack of adequate screening leaves vulnerable users exposed to potential exploitation. It could lead to financial losses, identity theft, etc.

With each fraudulent ad that festers on the platform, the trust in Meta’s safeguards erodes further.

The lines between oversight and negligence blur with each unchecked scam. One can’t fail to ask: are these fake ads simply falling through the cracks, or is a deliberate hand turning a blind eye?

While Meta profits from its lax policies, who pays the real price—user vulnerability, user privacy, and user safety?

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