By: Erin Richards-Kunkel
Social media continued its massive reach in 2012, and amid strides forward in technology, platforms and development, questions about advertising, monetization and user rights and privacy have become even murkier.
The new changes, set to go into effect Jan. 19th, allow Instagram to sell content shared on the platform, including photos and data to advertisers without compensation or notice to users.
The updated terms of service caused an immediate backlash, with a possible loss of 25 percent of daily users deleting their accounts. Additionally, users have started taking to other social media platforms urging others to also delete their Instagram accounts causing hashtag #boycottinstagram to trend worldwide on Twitter.
@Grammy_Tweets tweeted “Are YOU going to let Instagram sell YOUR images, get paid for them and NOT tell YOU? #BoycottInstagram and delete your account in PROTEST!”
Artist Matt Maldre, @spudart, tweeted “I stopped using Instagram last month. Now their updated terms makes me want to completely delete.”
Responding to the backlash and retracting some of their initial statements, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom posted in a blog post hoping to assuage user worries about ownership rights.
“You also had deep concerns about whether under our terms, Instagram had any plans to sell your content. I want to be really clear: Instagram has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did. We don’t own your photos – you do,” said Systrom. “Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work.”
Despite Systrom’s attempt to clarify intentions, buzz about the change in Instagram has continued to eat away at the platform’s image.
AppData, an audience tracker reported a week after the announcement, the number of daily Instagram users fell by 3.5 million to an average of 12.4 million per day as well as a class action lawsuit based upon their change in terms of service.
“[We are] pretty sure the decline in Instagram users was due to the terms of service announcement,” AppData told The New York Post.
Instagram denied that they have seen a decline in users. In a statement, they said, “This data is inaccurate. We continue to see strong and steady growth in both registered and active users of Instagram.”
Facebook also responded with the controversy over the numbers, revising the way data is related to third party applications.
“We don’t provide app usage metrics for apps owned or created by Facebook through our API,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We’ve updated our API to reflect this for Instagram, which would remove it from AppData’s rankings.”
This essentially hides Instagram user data for not only AppData, but for anyone using the Facebook API.
But even though Instagram has tried to appease wary users by clarifying their intentions, some users remain wary, looking to other photo sharing platforms to fill the Instagram void. Up and coming apps have tried to seize the users looking to replace their Instagram with a new platform. Networks like Yahoo!’s photo sharing website Flickr and new apps like EyeEm and Tadaa have gained important ground.
Graphic designer Lin Chervenkova, @linchervenkova tweets “[@eeyem] looks really nice! But I’m going back to Flickr! It’s been there for a while and the new app is great! #boycottinstagram.”
Joe S Park, @parkjoe1, tweets “Luv it, #eyeem pickin up steam vs. #boycottinstagram. Much better app anyway. #dontf&*kwithpeople #backtracking #liars.”
For rivals like EyeEm, the latest controversy has only seen a raise in their active users. EyeEm recently added Twitter integration, which Instagram passed on, and from the two components, EyeEm daily user registrations have increased some days almost ten-fold.
EyeEm CEO Florian Meissner tells TechCrunch that users are angry that Instagram would profit from their content without compensation.
“If this happens, the brands would need to compensate the users. If they want that content they have to pay for it,” he told TechCrunch. “We have said that copyright and rights will always belong to our users. If we implement a business model, we would never do anything without compensating our users.”
Erin Richards-Kunkel is a Los Angeles-based journalist whose articles have appeared in the Times Community News,Pasadena Sun, Los Angeles Daily News, The Daily Breeze and the Valley Scene Magazine. She loves to explore and write about the unknown the lighter side of L.A.; looking into the hidden corners and presenting the little-known story in print with a visual feast of multimedia elements.