Tag Archives: Instagram

Trump Administration Launches Tool to Report Censorship



The Trump Administration has launched a web survey for people to use if they feel they have been wrongly censored on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube. The survey was created with the online form-building tool Typeform. The first page of the survey says:

SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS should advance FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Yet too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear “violations” of user policies. No matter your views, if you suspect political bias caused such an action to be taken against you, share your story with President Trump.

The Guardian reported that the survey asks users to provide their names, contact information, social media accounts, and screenshots of interactions with social media platforms. Only US citizens and permanent residents are asked to participate. The Guardian wonders what the Trump administration will do – and what it won’t do – with the names and contact information of the people who fill out the survey.

Typeform tweeted: “We didn’t get any further than this @WhiteHouse”. The tweet included a screenshot of the question “Are you a U.S. citizen or permanent resident?” Typeform checked “no”. The Guardian reported that Typeform is based in Barcelona.

As always, it is a good idea to read a survey’s user agreement before you post any of your information into it. Ars Technica reported that the user agreement gives the Trump Administration a broad license to use the information that users post into the survey, including publishing it.

More specifically, the user agreement “grants the U.S. Government a license to use, edit, display, publish, broadcast, transmit, post, or otherwise distribute all or part of the Content (including edited, composite, or derivative works made therefrom)”.

“You waive any right to inspect or approve of any Content edited, composite or derivative works made from Content (including those which may contain your information) before use. You are not entitled to any prior notice before the U.S. Government uses Content or Information. You are not entitled to any compensation for Content.”

“You understand that Content may not be altered or deleted by you after submission, You further understand that your submission may be subject to the Federal Records Act and/or the Presidential Records Act and may be subject to public release according to those statutes.”

The Verge reported that near the end of the survey, it invites users to opt into email newsletters from President Trump “so we can update you without relying on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.”

Another part of the survey points users toward the user agreement, and states: “you understand this form is for information gathering only.” I think there are going to be a lot of disappointed people who presume that filling out the survey will instantly make their suspended or banned accounts accessible once again. In addition, some people may not realize they opted-in to a newsletter.


Facebook Banned “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations”



Several websites have reported that Facebook has banned a group of people who have broken the company’s Community Standards. More specifically, those recently banned have broken the “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations” portion of Facebook’s and Instagram’s Community Standards.

The “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations” policy states: “In an effort to prevent and disrupt real-world harm, we do not allow any organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence, from having a presence on Facebook. This includes organizations or individuals involved in the following: terrorist activity, organized hate, mass or serial murder, human trafficking, organized violence or criminal activity.

The policy also says: “We also remove content that expresses support or praise for groups, leaders, or individuals involved in these activities.”

Buzzfeed News got a statement from a Facebook spokesperson who said: “We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology. The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.”

BuzzFeed News reported that the ban will affect both Facebook and Instagram.

Here is a list of those who have been banned: Milo Yiannopoulos, Alex Jones (and his Infowars site), Laura Loomer, Louis Farrakhan, Paul Joseph Watson, and Paul Nehlen. Some of the people who were banned from Facebook and Instagram have been previously banned from other platforms. I’ll leave you to read the BuzzFeed News article if you would like more details.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Facebook (and Instagram) are not part of Congress. They are private companies.


Elizabeth Warren Wants to Break Up Tech Industry Giants



Senator Elizabeth Warren said that if she is elected president in 2020, her administration will break up the giants of the tech industry. This was announced at SXSW in Austin, and in a detailed post on Medium. In that post, Senator Warren mentioned Amazon, Google, and Facebook.

Senator Warren’s plan would classify any company that runs a marketplace and makes more than $25 billion a year in revenue as a “platform utility”, and will prohibit those companies from using those platforms to selling their own products.

The Verge interviewed Senator Warren. Her plan includes Apple – which was not mentioned in the Medium post. Senator Warren wants to break Apple apart from their App Store. As far as I can tell, the plan also calls for Google to split from Google Play. Personally, I’d like to see more specific information from Senator Warren about how that change will affect how apps are distributed.

In part of the interview, Senator Warren said:

The problem is that’s not competition. That’s just using market dominance, not because they had a better product or because they were somehow more customer-friendly or in a better place. It’s just using market dominance. So, my principle is exactly the same: what was applied to the railroad companies more than a hundred years ago, we need to now look at those tech platforms the same way.

In short, the plan would prevent Amazon from selling Amazon Basics products on the Amazon retail store. It would stop Google from promoting its own products in Google Search. And, it would require Facebook to split apart from Instagram and Whatsapp. It is a strong push for antitrust enforcement of an industry that has been untouched by those laws.

Personally, I would like to see Facebook and Instagram split apart. I’m not a fan of Facebook (and stopped using it years ago). Instagram brings me joy, but I am conflicted about continuing to use it because it belongs to Facebook. I’d also like to see YouTube separated from Google.


Instagram Temporarily Launched Horizontal Scrolling



Instagram users may have encountered an unexpected change today when trying to scroll through their feed. Instead of being able to vertically scroll through Instagram, the change temporarily switch it to a horizontal scroll.

TechCrunch reported that the change was due to a bug that mistakenly rolled out the change to the Instagram feed. Many users found the change from vertical scrolling to horizontal scrolling to be annoying.

Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, posted an explanation on his verified Twitter account: “Sorry about that, this was supposed to be a very small test but we went broader than we anticipated.” This was in response to another Twitter user who was noticed the unexpected horizontal scroll and who commented about it to Adam Mosseri.

The Verge reported: Only a few minutes after the horizontal feed went live, the old-fashioned vertical feed seems to have reappeared for most of the users who had been seeing the horizontally scrolling test.

I checked my Instagram, and it is allowing me to scroll vertically through it. The bug had been fixed before I learned that it temporarily changed the feed to a horizontal scroll.

I’m not sure why the switch away from a vertical scroll was such a big deal for so many Instagram users. Change is hard, I suppose. If anything, it is possible that the bug that launched the horizontal scrolling more widely than expected was useful. It gave Instagram plenty of user feedback to consider.


Instagram Influencers Must Disclose Endorsements



You have probably seen plenty of ads on Instagram. They show up mixed in with the content you want to see from the accounts you decided to follow. The ads are easy to identify because they are labeled “Sponsored”.

Ads are much less obvious when presented by an Instagram influencer. A viewer might not understand that what they are looking at is an ad.

Influencers who fail to make it clear that the photo or video includes an endorsement may be in violation of Federal Trade Commission rules regarding paid endorsements on social media. It is entirely possible for an influencer to unintentionally break the rules. According to the FTC:

…an endorsement means any advertising message (including verbal statements, demonstrations or depictions of the name, signature, likeness, or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization) that consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a party other than the sponsoring advertiser, even if the views expressed by that party are identical to those of the sponsoring advertiser. The party whose opinions, beliefs, findings, or experience the message appears to reflect will be called the endorser and may be an individual, group, or institution.

Wired has a detailed article that looks at Instagram influencers who are paid to promote a specific product. The influencer might be paid to promote that product, or to disparage a similar product from a competing brand. Or, the influencer may be given something for free with the expectation that they will praise it on Instagram.

In essence, this type of situation functions like an unlabeled advertisement. The FTC rules require influencers to disclose that they have been endorsed to talk about the product or service they are featuring. Those who fail to do so could be investigated by the FTC.

The FTC rules govern more than how endorsements are disclosed on Instagram. It also covers social media, blogs, TV commercials, and more. It is a good idea to read over the FTC rules before you post content that contains an endorsement. Make sure you are within compliance.

Image from Pexels


Instagram Introduced New Ways to Collect Your Data



Instagram has introduced Nametag. It is a customizable identification card that allows people to find your Instagram profile when it is scanned. Did Instagram make this because people were complaining that it was too difficult to share their Instagram name with others? I doubt it.

Nametag is something Instagram users can set up within the Instagram app. Nametag includes your Instagram username. You can personalize your Nametag by choosing other designs, colors, emojis, and selfies.

The idea is that this will encourage people to ask people they meet outside of the internet what their Instagram username is. Nametag would allow two people to scan each other’s Nametag’s and start following each other. Was it really so difficult to just tell people what your Instagram username is?

Personally, I don’t have a use for Nametag. My Instagram account is private because I found my Instagram photos on other people’s websites and it bothered me. I’m incredibly picky about who I will let follow me on Instagram.

Nametag sounds like a fun little gimmick that could result in more user interaction on Instagram. That’s one thing that social media companies want – to encourage users to engage with their social media site more often.

In addition, Instagram is testing something called School Communities. College and university students, as well as recent grads, can opt-in to their School Community. Doing so allows a user to add a profile that lists their university, class year, major, sports team and sorority.

Those who are in the same university can click on a directory listing all the people who have attended it. In other words, School Communities is a way for Instagram to create a database of college students.

School Communities also appears to also be designed to encourage users to interact more on Instagram. In addition, it is a sneaky way to get users to give more of their personal data to Instagram (and therefore, Facebook). Beware of the fun features that social media companies create. They may have an ulterior motive.


Instagram’s Questions Sticker is not Anonymous



Instagram recently introduced the Questions Sticker. It functions something like Ask.fm and Formspring. It turns out that Instagram’s Questions Sticker is not anonymous.

The Questions Sticker is an interactive feature in Instagram Stories that lets your friends submit questions for you to answer. Instagram describes it as “a fun new way to start conversations with your friends so you can get to know each other better.” Two other features, the polling sticker, and the emoji slider, are also designed to help people get to know their friends better on Instagram.

To use the Questions Sticker, you first need to take a photo or video. The example on the Instagram blog shows a photo with a Questions Sticker that says “waiting for the bus… ask me questions!” Your friends can see the sticker and tap it to reply (as many times as they like).

You can find your friends’ responses in your story’s viewers list. Tap any question they’ve asked to create a new story where you can answer it, and the question you’re answering will appear on your story for context. Though you’re able to see who submitted each response in your viewers list where it’s private, when you share that response in your story, your friend’s photo and username will not be shown.

The Guardian reported that Instagram’s Questions Sticker is not anonymous. You will be able to see who submitted each response to your questions.

The part that seems to be confusing people is that when someone shares a response publicly, the username of the person who made that response is removed. The Guardian notes that the way Instagram explained how the Questions Sticker functioned was unclear. The result is there are some very embarrassed people out there who thought their mean words could not be connected to them.