Freedom

Today I was surprised when I received a text message from someone asking me If I had blocked them on Instagram or if my account had been deleted. I had no idea what they were talking about, so I opened the Instagram app on my phone and was surprised to be greeted with a login screen. I check my email and there were five emails from Instagram, about the five videos I had posted from last night’s Janet Jackson concert. The emails had the following:

We’ve removed or disabled access to the following content you posted on Instagram because we received a notice from a third party that the content infringes their copyright(s):

Video: ‘That’s the way love goes… #janetjackson’ uploaded on 15 October 00:09 PDT

For reference, this content was removed due to Report #[redacted number].

Instagram complies with the notice and takedown procedures defined in section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). If you believe that this content was removed as a result of mistake or misidentification, you can submit a DMCA counter-notification by filling out our automated form at [redacted link]

We strongly encourage you to review the content you have posted to Instagram to make sure that you have not posted any other infringing content, as it is our policy to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers when appropriate. For more information about intellectual property, please visit our Help Center: https://help.instagram.com/535503073130320/

Thanks,
The Instagram Team

There were two links on this email, one to their help center articles about intellectual property, and one to the automated form to “submit a DMCA counter-notification” – I followed this link on my laptop, but hit a wall when my login credentials weren’t recognized. When I tried to login on the app itself, I get a popup saying my account was suspended, and directing me to a help center article that reads:

Your account has been deleted for not following our terms. You won’t be able to log into this account and no one else will be able to see it. We’re unable to restore accounts that are deleted for these types of violations

So, my Instagram account got deleted without them giving me any kind of actionable options to follow up. I can’t contest the take-down notice (which would be my legal right), because I can no longer log into my account. My account got deleted for posting 5 videos from a concert that I really loved – something I’ve done countless times with other artists I saw perform live. Most of those artists probably appreciated the publicity and encouragement. I’ve been an Instagram user for nearly 3 years to the day. I started late but quickly fell in love with the community and tools. Never had I had an issue on my account. I understand these are likely just algorithms doing their jobs, but algorithms are programmed by people, and those people are not doing their job well if they’re causing Instagram to lose active community members this way, without a way to fix it. Yes the videos could have been taken down, but never without giving me enough time to react to the take down notice.

After posting about all this on Facebook (and yes, I understand the irony of it all, since Facebook owns Instagram), I heard other people were also getting their accounts deleted for the same reasons – we were all at Janet Jackson’s concert last night and posted short videos of the concert. It seems like Miss Jackson’s lawyer team is on fire. What a shame they don’t understand the times we live in. A while back her team tried to pull a similar stunt on WordPress.com (where this blog is, and the company I work for). Our legal team answered it in the best way possible, and added this case to our “Hall of Shame”. Check it out.

All of this made me quite introspective today. Something so tiny, in the grand scheme of things, actually has shaken me. I was looking back at all the photos I posted on Instagram over these 3 years (over 900 photos) and all the memories they are associated with. It’s a shame all the comments and reactions to them are lost now. But none of it was ever “mine” to begin with, right?  It’s a fine line for these social network companies… they need users to exist, yet users aren’t the client, we are the product they sell to advertisers. I’m not the first one to mention this, obviously. So, why do we subject ourselves to this kind of tyranny? I know why… it’s that moment when you #gpoy and a random cute guy likes your photo. It’s the moment you take a selfie with someone you’re meeting for the first time, after following them for months or years on instagram. It’s getting those hearts on your photos when you’re having a shitty day and somehow they make things better.

That’s why episodes like this make me appreciate even more how important contributing to an open source platform that empowers freedom of speech and tries to democratize publishing really is. WordPress is free, and always will be. If you know how, get it on your own server. If you don’t, sign up for a free blog on WordPress.com. The content will ALWAYS be yours! There’s no hoops to go through – wanna leave and move on, download your content and save it, it’s yours!

I used to have a photoblog before I started using Instagram. I stopped updating it when I started using Instagram. Maybe it’s time to get back to it…


[UPDATE – October 19]

I got an email yesterday (but only noticed it today) from someone at Facebook/Instagram:

It looks like your Instagram account was suspended by mistake. We’ve gone ahead and reactivated your account, so you should now be able to log in. We’re very sorry for the inconvenience.

If you have any issues getting back into your account, please let me know.

Thanks,

Otto
Intellectual Property Operations
Instagram

I think the reason I got this is because of one of my friends at Facebook who opened an internal ticket about my case. Unfortunately I have no way of saying how a regular user without inside connections can get this done, or even what email address to contact Instagram – it just seems like if you have an issue with instagram, there’s no visible way to contact them and you should go to facebook support for it. Hope this helps anyone.

Independently of this reinstatement of my account, I plan on backing everything up to a WordPress blog and transition out of Instagram. This was definitely an eye opening experience and I’m still shocked of how it went down. My lovely memory of Janet’s concert is now absolutely tainted from this experience.

31 thoughts on “Freedom

    1. My account was deleted from posting just 1 Instagram video of Janet. I contacted Instagram but got nothing. What can I do….is there an email I can contact….please help

  1. Reblogged this on Kate McClelland and commented:
    I can’t believe they deleted your account without you even being given time or right to at least put your side. Could have suspended it pending appeal. Sounds a bit draconian. Do they have spy-bots that pick up any references to them – that’s even more scary because if they do – then others can

  2. Sad story with regards to Miss Jackson’s stance and your loss of data. Unfortunately owning your own data is still not on everyone’s top of mind. Everything I share that I care about keeping is backed up to my site. Some of it is public, most of it is not.

    Importing Instagram photos was probably one of the first things I did by using this wonderful Instagram Importer plugin by Justin Sternberg. Very warmly recommended.

  3. This is EXACTLY what happened to me as well. I posted ONE video (and I typically never post videos, but I truly enjoyed that show). I’ve seen others post many videos of other shows they’ve been to so I did not even realize this was a “violation” of their terms. My account was deleted within 1.5 hours of receiving that email. No time to react or take down the post.

    I feel the same exact way you do. Thank you for expressing it well.
    I had 3,000+ photos over 5+ years worth of memories, and most were not saved onto any other platform.

    It’s truly made me rethink all of this social media.

    1. Hey,

      I just started the petition “Instagram: Instagram deletes accounts forever without notice!” and wanted to see if you could help by adding your name.

      My goal is to reach 100 signatures and I need more support. You can read more and sign the petition here:

      https://www.change.org/p/instagram-instagram-deletes-accounts-forever-without-notice?recruiter=24265612&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=share_email_responsive

      Thanks!
      Jacqueline

  4. Man that sucks, i moved to a self hosted known blog for exactly reasons like this. Just goes to show you have no control over your data on the large networks, as if your post is going to bankrupt Janet Jackson, its b***cks frankly. Wave them good bye and get your own self hosted photostream going again, you can host it at home on a raspberry pi or equivalent very easily these days if your broadband is reasonable. I got banned for life from ebay for an innocent mistake and was given no chance to fix the issue so basically f*** them. Go solo and get your freedom back.

  5. Wow, that’s so completely messed up. I see no reason why they wouldn’t block the posts instead of the account.
    Can’t you email them and complain about it?

    1. They didn’t provide me with any email address to contact them, and I can’t find one on their site. I was given a Facebook email address to appeal my case to, by a friend who works at Facebook, but I feel like that’s not the way to go… It’s not about me recovering my account at this point.

      1. From here: https://help.instagram.com/374546259294234/

        “If you think your account was disabled by mistake, you may be able to appeal the decision by opening the app, entering your username and password and following the on-screen instructions.”

        It’s not great service when they say this in their FAQs and in real situations, they just block your account irreversibly.. Wow

        On Quora, some people suggest contacting support@instagram.com
        Maybe worth a shot :/

  6. Same thing happened to me! Why couldn’t they just delete the video and give us a warning? This is very frustrating.

  7. Same thing happened to my account this morning which I thought was super lame. I go to tons of concerts and have never had this issue with any other artist. Quite disappointing actually… it definitely affected the way I felt about my concert experience.

  8. Just like the readers above me, I too had my Instagram account deleted with little to no warning. I attended the LA Janet Jackson show this past Friday. I posted one quick video from her “IF” dance segment, which I thought was amazing. I hashtagged ‘Unbreakable Tour’ and ‘Janet Jackson’ with the intentions of sharing my video with others who were at the concert and/or going to attend future concert tour dates to let them know it’s going to be an awesome show. But alas I receive an Instagram warning email and next thing you know photos, videos, and memories deleted.
    What I want to know is why some users had just the posts deleted and accounts intact, while we’re the unfortunate ones that have our entire accounts deleted with no chance of correcting the supposed infringement?
    Anyone have success contacting Instagram or Facebook regarding this issue? I’ve posted content from other concerts before and never had any warnings or violations. It just isn’t fair to just remove an account and all it’s content without a chance to rectify.

  9. This happened to me and two of my friends am who I went with to the concert as well. It is very annoying and very bad business practices. Is there a way we can all ban together and get this reversed?

    1. I agree! We need to ban together and pressure Instagram to reverse this. I bet if Janet actually knew how Instagram was unfairly punishing her fans, she’d be pissed. It’s one thing to claim copyright infringement and have videos of her live show removed (that is a reasonable request for an artist), but it’s completely unnecessary to have our entire accounts disabled as well.

  10. I sent this email to Instagram. Everyone should do it too. Also looking for a

    To Whom It May Concern:

    My account was deleted this morning because of three videos I posted from the October 16th Janet Jackson concert at the Forum in Los Angeles. I was given no warning so I could delete them and keep my account. This also happened to two of my friends who were at the concert with me. Also, after doing a little research I have come across posts online about numerous people who attended the October 16th concert who had their accounts deleted as well. Me and my friends have been Instagram account members for several years as I am sure so are all of the other people who were deleted after posting videos from the Janet concert. What kind of business practice is this? You give no warning or notice to give us a chance to delete the videos before you delete the account? The weird thing is that I can then go on and start a new account but loose all of my precious pictures from over the years. What is the point of Instagram if loosing pictures from important life experiences are deleted? Instagram needs to review its business practices and change there ways. This is disappointing that you can’t have trust in your account holders to give them a warning and then if not followed then you delete. Please let me know how we can resolve this problem immediately.

  11. the SAME thing happened to me. I actually cried a bit due to the fact that immediately I thought of the photos I lost of deceased grandparents, friends and family members I will NEVER get back because of instagram. My college graduation photos I took on my old cell phone that no longer works are completely gone because of janet jackson, instagram, and her legal team. I have been an IG user for years and had thousands of followers consisting of friends, family members, and co-workers. As I moved home after college, its the one way I kept in contact with everyone and now already dealing with depression and isolation, its impossible for me to get back in touch with/keep in touch with those I grew up with. I grew up on the jacksons. A family friend of ours was mj’s accountant for 20+ years, I’ve personally met MJ, and this just completely turned me OFF of janet jackson. 20+ years of being a dang near stan for janet jackson, and just that quick I will never ever support her, or anything else she does. This took what was a fun and memorable moment for myself, and turned it into something ugly. Ive spent all year this year waking up every day listening to janet jackson, and with all of the purchases i made at her concert in LA, i had 3 cd’s so you know a LOT of money was spent on TOP of ticket money, and I’m punished for it. WOW instagram, and I’m just fully disappointed in JANET and her TEAM.

  12. I’m in the same boat and heartbroken. Wow…I thought it was a harmless act to share the excitement from Friday’s Janet concert in L.A. I didn’t get any warning emails from Instagram. I rechecked my email today after reading this post. I would’ve deleted them in a heartbeat if I would’ve know. Lots of memories and connections lost. 😦

    1. Yeah I had the same experience–no email or notification that I violated terms or had a post under review. Just tried opening the Instagram app during lunch yesterday and had been logged out–logging in prompted a notification that my account had been disabled by Instagram for violating terms and no recourse offered to appeal or dispute this decision. It’s sad.

      Naturally, a bit of selective enforcement is also happening as some celebrities, Cara Delevigne for example, have not had their accounts disabled or even Janet Jackson concert video posts taken down:

      Miss Jackson has got it going ON

      A post shared by Cara Delevingne (@caradelevingne) on

  13. Happened to me too! Same exact thing. Now I’m no longer interested in posting pics on IG. Nice little wake up call…

  14. I sent it to support@instagram.com but it bounce back so if you go to the Instagram help section there is an online form you can fill out. We should start on online petition to get our Instagram accounts back!!

    1. I just received an email from Instagram apologizing for the mistake and have reinstated my account! Hopefully you all will have the same luck! Thanks for all this information everyone!

  15. Same thing happened to me. I received no email notifying me that my account was disabled or the reason why. Like most of you I could not find anyway to email IG so I finally went in and submitted a ticket saying my account was hacked. After verifying my account (I had to send in a picture of myself with a code they emailed me) I received a response saying I had violated the terms and conditions. I replied saying I had not and had no idea why my account was disabled and that I had never violated any terms (I did not mention the JJ video). Last night my account was enabled again and the video was gone. Not sure if my email had anything to do with my account being enabled but alas I have my account again. This morning my guy at IG emailed me back saying that I should be able to reset my password now (?).

  16. so they re-instated my account today, and i got an APOLOGY notice the second i logged in, they had deleted my account for ONE video. funny how NONE of the celebrities pages got infracted or deleted. jaunts team played a part no matter how much they deny it. and instagram topped the cake with deleting hundreds of paying customers pages. at least my page is back, so i can “backup” all my images. Sad it took TMZ and a few news sources and bloggers to “call her and her team out” to get the ball rolling on re-activating accounts for something that seems so innocent. it seems like 90% of the deleted accounts didn’t even get as much as a warning to get a chance to remove the posts. hopefully everyone gets their pages back.

  17. You will besurprised if I tell you about my accounts @Nature @Animals @Pugs & @Cats were all disabled for apparent no reason since 30th April 2015. Since then
    I’m keep contacting Instagram and Facebook regarding my accounts all I get
    is nothing but a mere ignorance that Instagram have at the moment. I’ve
    left distraught and knowing that my 4 years of hardwork on my accounts have lost In such a horrible way. I’ve had 6M followers on @Nature, 1.9M on @Animals, 1.8M on @Pugs and 900k+ on @Cats. I’ve had fully credited every single picture with a report information. I’m all alone in this battle and no one is there to for me.

Comments are closed.

About Hugo Baeta

Portuguese designer from Sunny Lisbon, now living in San Francisco, California. Art Director and Interaction Designer at Automattic, devoted to working on WordPress.org and core WordPress!