Does posting a legal notice to Instagram regarding permissions you grant the platform change the terms of service a social media user agreed to when they signed up for an account? No, that's not true: This notice is a made up argument with no legal value. It is an evolution of a long running copy/paste privacy hoax that has been circulating since 2012.
The claim originated in a post (archived here) on Instagram where it was published on September 3, 2020, with the caption, "Share as necessary. Love to my patriots." The full text of the post reads:
As instructed by my lawyer: I'm not giving and have never given Instagram or anyone affiliated with instagram permission to share my information My private information or anything posted their website ( PHOTOS CURRENT or PAST, PUBLICATION, PHONE NUMBER OR POSTS ). And Absolutely nothing can be used in any form without my written permission. You are violating my rights under 5 different laws set up to protect me and my freedom of speech and information. Instagram and Mr. Mark Zuckerberg you have no right at all to violate my freedom of speech. It's against the law to delete my account without written consent sent to me months before hand, containing the reasons and community standards or violations I have broken. Further more no where on your site does it say I am not allowed to express my opinions. Also no where on there does it say you are allowed or mention you using fact checkers. You are not allowed to censor me, fact check me or remove me because I am not breaking any laws of the land.
This is what social media users saw at the time of writing:
Screenshot of two slides of the instagram post as they appeared on September 28, 2020
This type of legal notice is reminiscent of other similar hoax copy/paste legal notices that have been circulating on Facebook since 2012. Snopes wrote about it back then in the article, "Will Posting This Notice Stop Facebook or Instagram from Making Your Posts Public?" The old hoax posts typically started with an announcement of a deadline -- "Everything you've ever posted becomes public from tomorrow" -- and they have been evolving beyond that extended deadline for years. There are many versions.
There is even a 2020 edition that includes mention of COVID-19. This Hoax Slayer article, "Completely Pointless and Misleading 'Facebook Privacy Notice'," from June 12, 2017, contains nine examples of the hoax. This Instagram edition of the hoax has a new twist, the addition of a section excluding fact-checkers. This legal sounding toothless gibberish fails to bite for the same reasons the copy/paste privacy hoaxes of the past did.
The social media platforms are private companies who set the terms for the service they offer. Signing up for an account requires a person to agree to the terms of service. If a person is not comfortable with the terms, they do not have to use that platform's service. Posting a paragraph of demands does not create custom, legally binding exemptions from the platform's terms. Facebook bought Instagram in 2012. The terms of service for the two platforms are not identical. There is also a set of community guidelines that describe the expectations of how people behave and what sort of things they should not post. Below are links to the terms of service and community guidelines for Facebook and Instagram.
Instagram Community Guidelines
Facebook Terms of Service
Facebook Community Standards
This Instagram Legal Hoax Announcement begins with privacy concerns. Instagram's data policy introduction explains that without user's information, there is no Instagram.
"I'm not giving and have never given Instagram or anyone affiliated with instagram permission to share my information My private information or anything posted their website ( PHOTOS CURRENT or PAST, PUBLICATION, PHONE NUMBER OR POSTS ). And Absolutely nothing can be used in any form without my written premission."
The Data Policy
Providing our Service requires collecting and using your information. The Data Policy explains how we collect, use, and share information across the Facebook Products. It also explains the many ways you can control your information, including in the Instagram Privacy and Security Settings. You must agree to the Data Policy to use Instagram.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right to freedom of speech, that the government does not interfere with an individual's right to expression or religion. The First Amendment does not state that private people and companies have to provide a platform for all citizens to express themselves or that private companies cannot enforce a code of conduct or limit certain topics. This article -- "What Does Free Speech Mean?" -- from the federal judiciary, offers examples of cases that would and would not be protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
"You are violating my rights under 5 different laws set up to protect me and my freedom of speech and information. Instagram and Mr. Mark Zuckerberg you have no right at all to violate my freedom of speech."
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.
People who sign up for an Instagram account agree to the terms at the time.
"It's against the law to delete my account without written consent sent to me months before hand, containing the reasons and community standards or violations I have broken."
"Further more no where on your site does it say I am not allowed to express my opinions. Also no where on there does it say you are allowed or mention you using fact checkers. You are not allowed to censor me, fact check me or remove me because I am not breaking any laws of the land."
On December 16, 2019, fact-checking was extended to Instagram and introduced in an article here: 'Combatting Misinformation on Instagram,' it explains how the Facebook fact-checking program has been extended to Instagram, in part:
We want you to trust what you see on Instagram. Photo and video based misinformation is increasingly a challenge across our industry, and something our teams have been focused on addressing. In May of this year, we began working with third-party fact-checkers in the US to help identify, review, and label false information. These partners independently assess false information to help us catch it and reduce its distribution. Today, we're expanding our fact-checking program globally to allow fact-checking organizations around the world to assess and rate misinformation on our platform...
... We use image matching technology to find further instances of this content and apply the label, helping reduce the spread of misinformation. In addition, if something is rated false or partly false on Facebook, starting today we'll automatically label identical content if it is posted on Instagram (and vice versa). The label will link out to the rating from the fact-checker and provide links to articles from credible sources that debunk the claim(s) made in the post. We make content from accounts that repeatedly receive these labels harder to find by removing it from Explore and hashtag pages.
(Editors' Note: Facebook is a client of Lead Stories, which is a third-party fact checker for the social media platform. On our About page, you will find the following information:
Since February 2019 we are actively part of Facebook's partnership with third party fact checkers. Under the terms of this partnership we get access to listings of content that has been flagged as potentially false by Facebook's systems or its users and we can decide independently if we want to fact check it or not. In addition to this we can enter our fact checks into a tool provided by Facebook and Facebook then uses our data to help slow down the spread of false information on its platform. Facebook pays us to perform this service for them but they have no say or influence over what we fact check or what our conclusions are, nor do they want to.)