When Social Media doesn’t love what you do

Come and take a stroll with me along the beach –  location undefined, sand, shingle, you can choose – these are mere details. But our beach is strewn with litter, along the tide line, up near the car park… Plastic bottles, leftover picnic detritus, old fishing line… It’s just no good, is it? This is ruining our imaginary stroll. Unfortunately the problem is very real – there are 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in every square mile of ocean. So you decide to do something about it.

Welcome to the world of the #2minutebeachcleanthe concept is simple – you go to the beach, you have fun, but you also spend just two minutes picking up as much rubbish as you can. And then you take a photo of it. And post it on Instagram (this is a social media blog, remember?) Just by posting a photo, and using a hashtag, you instantly join a community of like minded individuals. You have taken action and helped show the world the rather endemic problem of marine littering. You have made a difference and anyone else can. After all, everyone has a spare two minutes, right?

But amongst all our seaside strolls and general eco-warrioring, there is something we have overlooked. And it’s something about 99% of us have often overlooked. It’s the terms and conditions of the social media platform we are using.

Last week the @2minutebeachclean Instagram account came a cropper with Instagram’s terms and conditions of use. The whole account was suddenly deleted without notice, the only reason given was a “violation of terms and conditions”. Speculation on Instagram pointed the finger at it being due to major corporations displeasure being ‘represented’ by the litter in the pictures. Whatever the reason was, it seemed rather unjust, @2minutebeachclean had been tried and convicted behind closed doors. A record of years of community activism had been removed without trace. But remember those terms and conditions, you know, the ones we never read? Well, shall we have a look at them together?

By accessing or using the Instagram, however you have accessed it, you have agreed to be bound by Instagram’s terms of use. It is that simple. You go on Instagram, they are in charge.  Within the General Conditions, Instagram state “we reserve the right to modify or terminate the Service or your access to the Service for any reason, without notice, at any time, and without liability to you.” So, if Instagram don’t like what you are posting, then they can delete your account at any time. You agree to them being able to do this by using Instagram in the first place.

However, this particular story has a happy ending – after a sustained campaign, the @2minutebeachclean account was reinstated by Instagram. Though by all accounts, it reappeared almost as mysteriously as it had disappeared. But when we are using social media for campaigning purposes we need to be aware that this could happen. It could happen on almost any platform, they are ultimately in control of your content. Maybe we all need to start reading those terms and conditions?