Instagram returns to original advertising terms of service in deft response to PR flak

Instagram revealed an update to its terms of service Thursday night after facing criticism for the policy it proposed earlier this week. The company decided to reinstate its original section on advertising and made a few other tweaks to clarify that it does not plan to sell user photos.

Instagram’s original language regarding ads is actually less specific and legally allows the same type of advertising that Instagram implied it might create under its new terms, but returning to its previous ad terms gives the company the appearance of concession and looks like a bigger win for users than if Instagram had simply rewritten that section.

On Monday, Instagram laid out a new privacy policy and terms of service to better reflect its status as an affiliate of Facebook and pave the way for some form of social advertising in the future. Many users were surprised and confused about what Instagram proposed regarding advertising, which said,

“…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.”

Despite the fact that the description matches exactly what Facebook has done for years with Sponsored Stories and other social ads, some media outlets wrongly interpreted this clause as giving Instagram the right to sell photos to advertisers for use in print, web or TV ads. The photo sharing company was vilified as a result, and finally decided to go back to its original language about advertising.

“Some of the Service is supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions, and you hereby agree that Instagram may place such advertising and promotions on the Service or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content. The manner, mode and extent of such advertising and promotions are subject to change without specific notice to you.”

Ultimately, Instagram could offer the same type of advertising under these terms as the other proposed terms, and in fact, this language allows advertising to put “on” a user’s photos. The company also left in a new clause, which similarly appears in Facebook’s terms:
“You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.”

In a blog post explaining Instagram’s plans, CEO Kevin Systrom apologized for the confusion and iterated, “Instagram has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did. We don’t own your photos – you do.” Systrom said the company will continue to consider advertising opportunities, but won’t amend its terms of service until it has a more specific idea of what these ads will involve:

Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work.

Instagram’s latest terms of service go into effect Jan. 19. Users can compare the new and old versions on the company’s site.

Publish date: December 21, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT