Instagram’s Terms and Conditions – An Inside Look

Instagram Logo

In December, Instagram, the Facebook-owned mobile photo and video-sharing social media platform, hit 300 million active monthly users. Forty-one percent of these users are between the ages of 16-24. Do you think people in this age group are taking the time to read through their favorite app’s terms and conditions? Probably not.

Generally speaking, Ts and Cs tend to be extremely long and difficult to understand due to their excessive legal jargon. But combing through them would give social media users a breakdown of what they’re getting themselves into. How does Instagram promise to keep its users safe? Are there any risks involved with having an Instagram account? Are the terms ethically sound? I’ve decided to take a closer look at Instagram’s Terms of Use to see if there are any potential ethical problems.

Instagram Terms and Conditions

The first thing that caught my eye was that users must be 13 or older. Can you imagine a 13-year-old trying to understand Instagram’s Ts & Cs? Because Instagram’s average user tends to be on the younger side, it’s even more important that its terms be written in plain English. In fact, since Instagram is often referred to as the “cooler” Facebook, it should have a “cool” terms and conditions section, filled with witty humor, images and an easy-to-navigate format, such as is the case with Facebook’s privacy basics page.

“You must not create or submit unwanted email, comments, likes or other forms of commercial or harassing communications (a/k/a “spam”) to any Instagram users.” While this rule is clearly spelled out in Instagram’s Ts & Cs, I see it broken every day by users who leave spam comments on celebrity photos. What is Instagram doing to reduce the number of times this happens? Are they terminating these users’ accounts like they say they will?

Kylie Jenner Instagram

I think the part that most sticks out to me is Instagram’s rule about not abusing, stalking or bullying other users. In its Ts & Cs, Instagram only spells out what users can’t do but not what it will do to help combat the bullying and abuse that occurs on its platform. The closest it comes to providing some sort of solution is on its Abuse & Spam page, where it recommends that users report such behavior using the app’s built-in reporting features. But how does this give users peace of mind that their issue will be resolved, especially when its Ts & Cs note that “”Instagram does not have any obligation to prescreen, monitor, edit, or remove any Content?” As I mentioned in my reading reaction this week, safety is a two-way street. Users signing up for Instagram want to be rest assured that, if they abide by all of the platform’s rules, they will be well taken care, should an issue arise.

In my opinion, the statement that could use the most improvement is the one that says that Instagram has the right to change its Terms of Use from time to time and notify you of the Updated Terms by posting them on the Service. Isn’t a lack of clearly communicating its Ts & Cs what got Instagram all of that negative press two years ago? I think Instagram could benefit from notifying users of term changes via a blog post or an email announcement.

After reviewing its online documents, what I liked more than Instagram’s Ts & Cs was its Community Guidelines document, which clearly and concisely spelled out what users can and can’t do as well as additional things they should keep in mind.

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2 thoughts on “Instagram’s Terms and Conditions – An Inside Look

  1. Hello Lynette. I really enjoyed your post. You make a great point about the minimum age to open an account. As I was thinking about how is it possible for a 13-year old to understand or care about terms and conditions, I came to realize that maybe if Instagram uses an approach (language or illustrations or cartoons) that they care about they might be able to at least get them to read something. In other words, using some of Instagram features like filters for both a tutorial on how to use them, as well as how to understand the rules. Can you image a tutorial of these filters, but using phrases of the t’s & c’s instead of images?

    While I’m aware that it’s hard to monitor so many posts and comments, I do think that they should be more responsible and at least say that they monitor messages. I do think they have an obligation to keep an eye on what’s going on, without necessarily having to be legally accountable!

    • Hi Celeste,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my post. I completely agree with your suggestion to utilize a more visually-appealing format to help younger Instagram users understand the platform’s Ts & Cs. How can a platform that’s entirely photo and video-based not use any images in its current Ts & Cs document? Much as newspapers articles are written at an 11th-grade level to make it easier for the average user to be able to understand them, the Ts & Cs of social media sites should be written in such a way that the average user will be able to understand. Instagram attracts a much younger audience than Facebook, for instance, so why not make the document both easier to understand and more visually appealing for your core audience.

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