Yesterday the internet blew up over a change in Instagram’s terms of service. If you were browsing your Twitter feed you would have seen headlines such as: “Instagram can sell your photos to advertisers” or “Instagram owns all of your content now”. All of this stemmed from an update to their terms of service agreement:
“To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”
Logically if those headlines and interpretations of the update were true what would the outcome have been? Would my selfies be turned into a billboard? Would my pictures of over priced lattes and gourmet doughnuts be used in a commercial? No. You have to remember that your photos (for lack of a better word) suck. You’d be hard pressed to find a brand that would actually use your content without permission regardless of the legal terms. Not only is this poor brand practice, but it just doesn’t make sense to use low MP filtered photos from people’s smartphones.
The line in Instagram’s TOS speaks directly to the way Facebook advertises (Instagram’s parent company) ”in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions”. This means that a brand could use your photo in a sponsored method within the platform. This update to the TOS was clearly in preparation for a monetization strategy within Instagram, which has been confirmed in their apology. For example, if Starbucks had a sponsored image it could appear in your feed or if one of your friends used the Starbucks hashtag it could appear in the app as a sponsored unit.
Ideas and statements can spread like viruses on social media. Yesterday’s attack on Instagram was a prime example of nobody doing any actual fact checking and simply following generic headlines that have been pushed by sites and blogs seeking visits and click throughs. These headlines act like a bacteria that infests into the psyche of a casual user causing common sense to go out the window.
There was no need to panic.
If you are still thinking of deleting your account (or you already did), consider that almost every social network has these same terms in place for content and nobody has expressed such concern. Headlines influence the behaviour of the masses causing us to jump to conclusions, forget common sense, and ignore the actual facts. Instagram is a great, free platform to share moments and create images for friends to see – these terms do not change that fact. If we want it to remain free we are naive to expect that they wouldn’t introduce advertising, so what they are doing is really in the best interest of the user.
Instagram. I still love you. I’m not going anywhere.
Instagram’s official response.