After a day of bruising comments on social media, Facebook-owned Instagram said it does not plan to sell users' photos, despite reports to the contrary.
seemed to indicate the image-sharing app can sell its users' photos, which sparked outrage among its users, who took to Twitter to express their dismay. People were allegedly dropping the service in droves.
In a post on the Instagram blog
, co-founder Kevin Systrom tried to stop the bleeding and offer an explanation.
“I’m writing this today to let you know we’re listening and to commit to you that we will be doing more to answer your questions, fix any mistakes, and eliminate the confusion,” Systrom wrote. “As we review your feedback and stories in the press, we’re going to modify specific parts of the terms to make it more clear what will happen with your photos.”
“To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos,” he stressed, adding:
“To provide context, we envision a future where both users and brands alike may promote their photos & accounts to increase engagement and to build a moremeaningful following. Let’s say a business wanted to promote their account to gain more followers and Instagram was able to feature them in some way. In order to help make a more relevant and useful promotion, it would be helpful to see which of the people you follow also follow this business. In this way, some of the data you produce — like the actions you take (eg, following the account) and your profile photo—might show up if you are following this business.”
Instagram users own their content, Systrom also said.
“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.”
That angered thousands of Instagram users—fueled in part by heavily retweeted headlines such as this one from CNet: “Instagram says it now has the right to sell your photos”—who are allegedly shuttering their accounts by the thousands.
The New York Times
captured their indignation in a blog post on Monday, saying:
“The only way to opt out of the new Instagram terms is to not use the service. If you log into Instagram in any way, including through the website, mobile applications or any other services offered by Instagram, you agree to have your content used in ads.”
Fox News said the change could spell the end of Instagram
The term “#instagram” was among a trending topics on the site on Twitter all morning, as tweets pour in encouraging boycotts, offering alternatives, and generally bashing the company’s decision.
Within half an hour of Systrom posting the mea culpa
to the blog, which runs on Tumblr, Instagram received nearly 1,400 likes and reblogs. The reaction in those reblogs was mixed.
Tumblr employee Justin Ouellette asked
, “Does it really matter whether Instagram technically ‘owns’ your photos if they claim most of the individual rights usually associated with ownership, such as licensing?” He said the change is a technicality.
Blogger Esau Kessler wrote
that the post is a “good start,” but “ I need to see the revised TOS before I stop the process of deleting my Instagram account.”
Another Tumblr blogger commented
, “Thank you. A company with its users at heart.”
This year, Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion. Recently, the photo-sharing app scuffled with Twitter
by preventing Instagram photos from appearing in tweets. Twitter launched its own version of Instagram in response.
In a post for the alternative news websites The Industry
, designer and developer Jordan Koschei offered a different viewpoint than many of the outraged Instagrammers:
“Social media is not a public utility. Using Instagram is not a right. When you begin using these services, you enter a legally binding contact with them, defined in the Terms of Service …
“When a social media company changes its terms of service, an appropriate response would be to keep using it (if you agree to the terms), to delete your account (if you don’t,), or to express your displeasure by contacting the company (if you really, really don’t). While I’m sure plenty of people are expressing themselves in this way, their voices of reason are drowned out by the contingent, which insists on complaining loudly that the greedy robber barons are infringing on their fundamental human right to use Instagram. Delete your account, and let the rest of us continue on in peace.”
Matt Wilson, a reporter for PR Daily's sister Ragan.com, contributed to this story.