The Instragram Fiasco: It’s Over, Put Down Your Pitchforks


People love uploading and sharing their most intimate moments with family and friends using the popular mobile app Instagram, but now users using the popular photo-sharing service may be inadvertently signing up to have their images used in ads without their permission. Or at least that’s what would have happened if users hadn’t stood up this week with pitchforks and torches in protest.

On Monday, Instagram announced a significant change to its terms of service and privacy policy, adding a clause that would allow members’ uploaded photos to be used for marketing purposes in advertisements without compensation by Instagram and its parent company, Facebook.

Here is how the new TOS, set to become in effect on January 16, read:

“Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. 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.”

The news soon went viral and sparked massive consumer outrage, with users around the globe vowing to boycott Instagram. The media descended relentlessly on the story, first by The New York Times, then by Reuters, Forbes and many other major news outlets. Even Anderson Cooper got in on the action.

After Instagram users began exporting their photos and deleting their accounts en masse, the photo-sharing service on Tuesday wrote a blog post to clarify the TOS changes that consumed the Internet over the past two days.

In a post titled, “Thank you, and we’re listening,” Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom said “legal documents are easy to misinterpret.”

“Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram,” Systrom said. “Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your 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.

“The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement,” he continued. “We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question.”


  1. OK, but what about street photographers that make photos of people on the street without model releases? If Instagram used one of my photos with people in it to promote a commercial purpose and the person in my photo saw it… I could be sued.

    I never ask for a model release because I am not going to sell my photos to Coca-Cola, or Johnson & Johnson, or whatever. If IG used my photo without my permission, would this make me liable?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here