Instagram Terms of Use

As with all social media platforms, there are terms and conditions for the users, they have to agree to these terms in order to use the platform, and the owners of that platform reserve the right to prohibit the activity of users if they feel these terms have been violated. The Instagram terms of use cover aspects like the privacy of the user, the ownership of content posted by the users on social media and the what content is allowed to be posted by the user. Below are some particular terms of use that I find interesting and could potentially have an influence on the identity and personality expressed by Instagram users.


With the exception of people or businesses that are expressly authorized to create accounts on behalf of their employers or clients, Instagram prohibits the creation of and you agree that you will not create an account for anyone other than yourself. You also represent that all information you provide or provided to Instagram upon registration and at all other times will be true, accurate, current and complete and you agree to update your information as necessary to maintain its truth and accuracy.

From this, we can understand that Instagram doesn’t want users to create an account for anyone other than themselves and for they accounts that they do make, the information provided shouldn’t be falsified. This presumably has been detailed in the terms of use because of the rising awareness surrounding false users online as a result of the documentary and TV show Catfish. Some users have chosen to use pictures of other social media users to create a false identity, which they can then use to exploit other users. In catfish this exploitation is usually romantically, however in some other cases, false users can attempt to take money. However there are some accounts on Instagram created by users that are dedicated to things like their pets, where they post amusing and light hearted content that documents the life of the pet and attempts to express what that pet might be thinking. In this case it would appear that Instagram is unfair in laying out a term of use that prohibits this harmless activity, however as these accounts are still active on Instagram, it would appear that it takes someone to report activity, to make Instagram consider whether or not the account is causing harm.


We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram.

This has been a term of use that has been constantly challenged by the users of Instagram, who feel that there is an element of inequality in the identification of nudity. While images featuring male nipples have been allowed to remain on the social media platform, images featuring female nipples have been removed. There is controversy surrounding female nudity in photography, as there is a large tendency for the female form to be portrayed in a highly sexual manner. In response perhaps, Instagram has decided the images showing the female nipple are only okay if they feature a woman breastfeeding or a mastectomy scar. Understandingly many Instagram users feel that this term limits their freedom of expression, however Instagram explains in their terms of use that it is acting in the interest of maintaining a family-friendly environment. Although nudity can be artistic and tasteful, there are still some images that younger users perhaps shouldn’t be exposed to.


Instagram is not a place to support or praise terrorism, organized crime, or hate groups.

With the rise of the terrorist group ISIS pinned on it’s social media activity, Instagram is clearly attempting to defend itself against any blame in the case of any terrorist activity being located on their platform. It is perhaps surprising that a social media platform has to state that no terrorism, crime or hate is allowed, as negative activity isn’t really considered as being ‘social’. However certain groups have identified that social media is a huge resource in terms of recruiting new members, as it gives a user the opportunity to connect to a vast amount of people globally and as there are so many other users on social media, the chances of being discovered straight away unless reported, are quite small. Despite the best efforts from social media platforms, it is clear that terrorist groups, criminals and hate groups have a lot to gain through using social media. It allows them to both recruit members and to spread their messages, if a terrorist posts a video of a violent nature, the viral nature of social media is likely to ensure it is seen by thousands of people before the platform has a chance to take it down.


We do generally allow stronger conversation around people who are featured in the news or have a large public audience due to their profession or chosen activities.

This is a really interesting term, that suggests that celebrities or other well-known people should perhaps expect to receive negative messages, because that is an aspect of their profession. It is interesting that instead of taking steps to try and create a positive community, that Instagram is effectively guarding themselves from blame just in case a particular celebrity user does receive abuse from other Instagram users. I would also be interested to know how Instagram intends to define the ‘strength’ of the conversation surrounding well known users, whether they continually analyse the traffic around one particular user or whether they base it on how many comments get reported. Do they base it on whether there are any obscenities used or do they do a qualitative analysis of what it said in order to establish whether it is too ‘strong’. Perhaps this term is deliberately ambiguous and loosely defined to make sure that Instagram can’t be blamed if abusive activity does happen.


Each of us is an important part of the Instagram community. If you see something that you think may violate our guidelines, please help us by using our built-in reporting option.

Here Instagram is encouraging users to watch each other, they are intending to establish self-regulation between the users. Michel Foucalt’s panoptican really comes into play here, with the idea that there is no need for the guard (Instagram) to interfere when the prisoners (Instagram users) are all responsible for watching each other.


So overall the terms of use laid out by Instagram state that users must make a truthful account that represents themselves. They shouldn’t be taking part in any illegal activity or at least posting about any such activity, or commenting about it on Instagram. In addition to this, users of Instagram shouldn’t be abusive to each other, though Instagram does acknowledge that they expect stronger conversation to take place in reference to celebrities and other well known figures. Instagram also doesn’t allow nudity, despite acknowledging that not all nudity is pornographic in nature. Instagram maintains that in order to be a site for all ages, that nudity has to be restricted. In order to make sure that users are remaining within the terms of use, Instagram actively encourages users to watch each other and report each other if they feel a user is breaking the rules. This is also so users can report other users if they are receiving direct abuse from them and need protecting. What is interesting to me is that the terms of use appear to be a way of making sure that Instagram is never to blame for any controversial activity that happens; the blame can always be placed on the user. This is reflective of neoliberalism, which also individualises subjects and shifts the blame to them instead of engaging with overall societal wrongs. Neoliberalism creates that idea that you alone can try hard to succeed but if you fail, it is you alone that is to blame. The power Instagram has then, appears to be unseen and acted through its users, as it encourages them to regulate each other. However Instagram always has the option to withdraw and place the blame on the user, keeping it safe from criticism.


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