Instagram infuriated users when it announced new terms of agreement. I am sure people would have posted pictures of themselves with pitchforks and torches, burning printouts of said agreement, except they didn’t want Instagram to own the photos.
Here’s the part that started the outrage.
Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, except that you can control who can view certain of your Content and activities on the Service…
To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.
Hmm, so, my name and my picture of me grinning and doing a thumbs up, apparently endorsing any old product – the home waterboarding kit, say – and when the millions roll in from this brilliant piece of advertising, I get nothing?
There are a quite a few things I could object to. I might object to them using my picture, or my name, or my image, (or my intimate metadata). I might object to them linking these things to a product or service. And I might object to someone else getting the money from these objectionable activities. (If there’s gonna be ill-gotten gains, I want my share.)
So, furor. So, backpedaling. Co-founder & CEO Kevin Systrom issued a statement, annoyingly titled “Thank you, and we’re listening.”
Oh please. When you thank people for threatening to bring your business to its knees and toss you in the nearest contaminated body of water, Kevin, it comes off as insincere.
The statement is long, and passive-aggressive. It is not an apology, but some people are calling it that. I will quote selectively.
“…we’ve heard loud and clear that many users are confused and upset about what the changes mean.” You are confused, puny mortals.
“Legal documents are easy to misinterpret.” You don’t have our legal department, which rationalizes anything we want to do. Sad for you.
“Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.” This is the closest part to an apology, in that it says they made a mistake. By confusing us. Into foolishly thinking that when they said they would be paid for displaying such things as… our photos, that meant they would be selling our photos. As Helen A.S. Popkin put it “Instagram wasn’t claiming it owned your “Content”…. It was just apparently going to sell it like it did.”
It also changes the issue from what this language would give them the right to do, to what they intend to do. If they intend not to do anything that would upset users, but they have the right to do those things, what happens if their intentions change?
“The language we proposed also raised question [sic] about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question.” Uh huh. Let’s see the new language.
“One of the main reasons these documents don’t take effect immediately, but instead 30 days from now, is that we wanted to make sure you had an opportunity to raise any concerns. You’ve done that and are doing that, and that will help us provide the clarity you deserve.” Hurray! Clarity! “Give Peace a Chance” flash mob in South Park now!
It’s not an apology. They’re saying, “You were confused, and you misunderstood. It was a mistake for us to use such hard words. So we’re changing the language so you won’t get the wrong idea. Thanks for the hissy-fit! It helped us understand your limited thinking.” Nope.
It peeves me that many news sources are calling this an apology. “Instagram apologized to its users” said CNET. “Instagram backed off, apologized, and said it would change its proposed policies…” said Time. “Instagram issued an apology,” said the LA Times (in a story focusing on Kim Kardashian’s indignation).
News sources! If you are in doubt about whether something qualifies as an apology, ask us. We’re stern but fair, and we haven’t figured out a way to monetize your inquiry yet.