Delete Instagram: Is it Time to End Your Account?


If you’re one of Instagram’s 100 million registered users, posting one of four billion filtered photos, then you’ve probably caught wind of their updated Terms of Use, and the ensuing backlash against the ultra ubiquitous (and highly addictive) photo-sharing platform. The site’s new stipulations go live January 16, 2013, and the language in the ‘Rights’ section of the Terms of Service (ToS), particularly that which explicitly stated Instagram would have the right to share user content with advertisers, provoked a textual roar seen round the social media stratosphere. 

The question now is will such widespread user disappointment affect Instagram’s (business) decision to finance their site through sponsored content?

Disgruntled users everywhere posted snarky photos threatening they would delete their accounts in mid-January. The LA Times covered the ‘insta-grief’ phenomenon over the new ToS, and ran a video explaining what “Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue,” means. Essentially, if you post a photo on Instagram, the site retains the right to share it, your username, and Insta-activity with relevant paying advertisers. This doesn’t mean that all your photos and information will be immediately pumped out for promotional purposes, but it does mean you don’t have the right to choose which advertisers see what.

In response to the uproar, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom posted on the company’s blog that it was never the intention to “sell [user] photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.”

Only time will tell if Instagram decides to back away from its decision to allow ‘users and brands alike’ to promote their accounts in meaningful ways. It wasn’t so long ago, after all, that Netflix awkwardly introduced, and then consequentially shut down, its now infamous DVD-only, ‘Qwickster’ entity.

On January 13, 2012, the Ellen Degeneres show featured a special clip called “Ellen Checks her Audience’s Facebook.” Apart from revealing embarrassing photos of various audience members in unfortunate poses, expressions, and various states of dress, the most remarkable thing about the video was how truly shocked and embarrassed each exposed audience member appeared when her Facebook content was shown. As Ellen so politely reminded a red-faced female, “You know you had this on the Internet, right?”

Is it so shocking that Instragram made a financial decision to support their site through sponsored content? Not really. Is it surprising that users are disappointed? Also, no. What is rather quizzical is how surprised users seem to be that others may see things they posted for their private audience only. On the Internet. Used by roughly a quarter of the world’s population.

Remember, there’s always scrapbooking…