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Why The Instagram TOS Mess Matters

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Instagram was bought by Facebook which is doing everything it can to make more money and keep its shareholders happy, so it’s no surprise they made the now infamous changes to their TOS. And while there’s nothing wrong with making a buck, one does have to be careful about HOW one is making that buck.

The rise of social media has brought with it an ongoing debate about whether we, the user base, are the “product”. After all, without us Instagram and all the other social media outlets are nothing. There’s no there there except for us.

We get to “share” our stuff for free to one, two, a hundred, a thousand, or everyone on the planet. The apparent, the marketed, and the supposedly compelling need to broadcast ourselves is seen by the companies involved as a “service”, and because it has to be free so there’s no barrier to “sharing”, they have to earn their money in a myriad of ways that don’t involve direct fees from us.

Most of those fees involve advertising or data mining or sponsoring or sales of third-party applications and services or licenses. All these are fair game. No user gets harmed in the making of that movie. Sure, they may get a little squirrelly at being picked over by all those big-data peeps, but it’s a price almost all of us will pay.

But Instagram went too far, and if the same basic construct is in the TOS of Twitter and FB, it’s also beyond the pale. Signing up on any site is a contract, which users see as a trivial matter, but it’s not. We’re told not to trust the small print and this is a good example of why. The license we sign up to on Instagram is something that they companies themselves would never agree to in a million years, but we, the pawns, have to suck it up – and that’s if we notice in the first place.

They can make ads out of our stuff, books, magazines, movies, stock photo libraries, you name it, to sell, market, and sell again, and we, the peons, get bubkis, except, what? Glory? Bragging rights?

That’s snake oil, ladies and gentleman. It’s subterfuge. It’s just not right.

It’s not going to matter, of course. Even in the new world of slave labor with a smile, crowd-sourcing as source of singular profit, and even while this move has lifted the veil on the social media crowd more than just a little, nobody is going to care. There are already hints of an adjustment coming from Instagram, but they’ll keep pushing until finally, and irrevocably they get away with it. The truth is these companies treat our content as pig and cattle feed, as slurry, as filler, and the pigs, that’s us, just keep on snouts down at the trough. It’s the new way of the new world.

Instagram and Facebook, among others, want to appropriate just a little too much of us this time, blurring the lines of ownership, expression and privacy, as they march towards the creation of a new information, media, and content plutocracy, based as much on gilt-edged greed of the bricks and mortar fat cats and bankers they profess to hate. The new elixir is just as intoxicating as the old ones, but this time the illusion is delivered with a sincere emoticon, a mocha latte, a pair of torn jeans, and a mean libertarian streak that’s hidden far, far beneath the surface.

Happy snapping, everyone.


Written by coolrebel

December 18, 2012 at 12:49 pm

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