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/
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.
Intellectual Property Operations
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.