A report by the Center for Current Policy has found that, on average, 30 percent of the accounts that follow any given Russian regional governor on Instagram are bots.
The three regional leaders whose followers include the highest proportion of bots were found to be Tuva Governor Sholban Kara-ool (63 percent), Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin (whose role is considered equal to that of a regional governorship; 53 percent), and North Ossetian leader Alanii Vyacheslav Bitarov (50 percent). Sobyanin’s account boasts 675,000 followers, the highest figure among all Russian regional government heads. The lowest portion of bot followers found in the report was 13 percent for Chukotka Governor Roman Kopin’s account.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who is considered to have introduced Instagram as a political tool for government figures in Russia, led the pack in terms of the average number of likes on each of his posts (17,500). 22 percent of his followers were found to be bots. Kadyrov has been blocked from Instagram on multiple occasions but returned to the service after initially switching to a Chechen equivalent.
To determine how many followers on each official’s account were bots, the Center for Current Policy used a service called IG Audit whose margin of error is eight percent. The center also used its own independent analysis to confirm the service’s results. Experts interviewed by the Russian business newspaper RBC said they found the paper’s conclusions to be realistic.