Following the loud Internet outcry against its new Terms of Service, Instagram is rolling back a section of its new rules that previously gave many angry users the impression that the photo-sharing platform planned to start selling people's pictures to other businesses. At the same time, however, Instagram is leaving untouched several other controversial new sections of its ToS that may prove even more onerous.
Co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom wrote another blog post late Thursday announcing that Instagram is reverting the advertising section of the updated Terms of Service back to to the original version established in 2010. That was the section that caused hand-wringing among Instagrammers, as it suggested to some that everyone's photos would be sold to the highest bidder.
Here's the contentious provision that's been axed:
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.
We're not convinced that this bit of legalese -- again, now removed from the document -- meant that Instagram would start selling our photos. Elsewhere in the ToS, it was stated that individuals own each picture they snap and post. Systrom on Tuesday took to the Instagram blog to dispel the myth that the service planned to sell users' pics. On Thursday, he published his new post assuring users that the company would wait to introduce new advertising plans until it had established a clear direction.
"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," Systrom wrote in his most recent blog post.
But what Instagram left unchanged in its updated terms is actually more troubling. As Gerry Shih and Alexei Oreskovic of Reuters described nicely, there's other irksome language in the new agreement. One section implies that when a minor signs up for Instagram, he automatically has permission to do so from his parents.
But more disturbingly, another clause makes it near impossible to take Instagram to court in any meaningful way. Users now can only join a class-action lawsuit if they "mail a written 'opt-out' statement to Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park within 30 days of joining Instagram," Reuters writes -- which is not the case with Google, Twitter or Facebook proper.
Facebook, Instagram's parent company, knows something about class-action lawsuits. The fact that ordinary Instagrammers have been rendered legally impotent against Instagram and its team of lawyers is what the Internet should have been screaming about. Not Instagram's plan to sell photos, a scheme that Instragram this week claimed again and again never existed.
Users won this battle. But Facebook is winning the war.