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Instagram Deleted My Account with 135K Followers. Zero Warning.

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Instagram is the most common platform photographers, clients and models use to meet and follow each other. Recently though, accounts are getting shut down and mine, with a following of 135,000, was among them.

A question I find myself asking is if the investment of building a following on Instagram was worth it. Maybe putting all of my eggs in one basket wasn’t the wisest decision.

I’m a fashion and portrait photographer based out of NYC. I opened my Instagram account close to 5 years ago and worked very hard to build a large following of 135,000 over the past half decade.

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On Sunday evening, when I tried logging into my account I was denied access with a message stating, “Your account has been disabled for violating our terms…”

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I never received any emails with any explanations or any note stating why the account was disabled or what terms I violated.

Losing my account with no warning and no explanations is nerve-wracking, to say the least. On Sunday night, my wife and I spent hours poring over Instagram’s terms of service and we were at a loss as to why my account was shut down.

According to Instagram, profanity, spam, using fake likes and nudity are reasons for an account to get shut down. Whether or not these standards have a place in our society is a conversation for another time. But in reality, I never violated any part of Instagram’s terms of service. For various reasons, I only take photos of models who are dressed modestly, my likes were authentic and built up over five years, and I never used any third-party apps.

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So the question remains: why was the account shut down?

If I had to guess, this most likely happened because people abused the reporting tool. If this is the case, this opens the door for photographer’s (or any other business’s) competitors to just report another business and have them removed. All of a sudden the reporting tool becomes a marketing tool. How great would it be if you report your competitor’s page enough times to have it shut down?

In an over-populated sea, you just bought yourself some space to stretch out your hands. Instagram is the place where companies and individuals can check out your work, see how you interact with followers, and learn about the product you offer. If you wipe out a competitor by simply reporting the account, you no longer have to worry that your clients are looking at other pages for ideas, inspiration or services.

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A simple Google search shows that all you can do if your account is shut down is fill out a form if you feel like the deactivation was a mistake. After doing so numerous times, I have yet to hear back from Instagram’s people.

Me holding a paper with writing. Part of the process to fill the reinstatement form, but no one has contacted me after submitting it.
Me holding a paper with writing. Part of the process to fill the reinstatement form, but no one has contacted me after submitting it.

Businesses rely on social media to market themselves. They spend countless amounts of energy, time and money building and marketing themselves through Instagram. Having an account shut down without explanation is not a pleasant experience. While Instagram has every right to do as they please, the one thing we can request is communication.

If there is no one to speak with and no reason given for accounts getting shut, what is there to motivate individuals to invest time into Instagram? After posting my experience on Facebook, many of my friends and followers are rethinking the energy they are investing in Instagram and that is very sad.

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What’s to keep an account from being shut down? If Instagram is simply using algorithms that use the amount of times people report accounts for no reason, how does that make sense? An account with 135,000 followers shouldn’t be easily shut unless it’s reported thousands of times. Shouldn’t there be some sort of review process involving real humans to make sure the reports have a basis?

Furthermore, if an account does get shut down for seemingly legitimate reasons, shouldn’t there be a real appeal process where the account owner can interact with humans? And lastly, isn’t it strange that an account that gets hacked has the same exact appeals process as someone who violates Instagram’s terms of service? Ultimately, using bots has its merits but there is something authentic about interacting with humans.

If an account with such a large following is getting shut down, what’s to stop them from coming for yours next?


Update: An hour after this post was published, the account has finally been restored by Instagram.


About the author: Dani Diamond is a fashion and portrait photographer based in NYC. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, and 500px (and previously Instagram).

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