Instagram's terrifying false positive nearly ruined a tech writer's life

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“Meta was erasing me from the internet.”

Remember when “the internet” was a zillion little personal sites and the occasional BBS owned by someone who was part of the community it served instead of five giant for-profit sites that mostly consist of screengrabs of posts from the other sites? That was nice. That was real nice. There were no hungry databases being fed with everything they could link to you, and using this to try and “maximalize user engagement” so they can show you as many ads as possible, with no care about whether or not whatever “content” is filling spots in their templates between those all-important ad units is good for you, the people who made it, or society overall.

“my Facebook account was also banned. This is how my mother messages me”

dude if there is one person in your life who is willing to shift to another medium to communicate with you, it is your mama, give her your phone number, start talking to her, send her some e-mail or a physical letter.

Delete yourself from the corporate internet.


Thanks the gods I never built my identity through corporate media. I feel for those who do, especially for young people who don’t know any better way. As a young activist I learned that small-cell face-to-face organizing was the safest way to know your comrades. I notice some young activists & artists now working this way, deleting their corporate accounts, rejecting fame & keeping their circles small. I’m glad to see it.


On the one hand, this is what happens when you’re the product, not the customer, but it’s still pretty terrifying that some algorithm presumably decided a picture of a sunset was CSAM and suddenly you get a message telling you, “computer says you’re a pedophile.” It claimed the decision was “reviewed,” but it’s glaringly obvious that no human being looked at it, which means - at best - one algorithm is “checking” the decision of another.

This is making me feel really nervous about how many thing rely on my gmail account…

And it’s not even that “simple,” because e.g. his VR hardware is tied to his Meta account - he can’t get rid of the account and still use the (rather expensive) hardware.


It is not his hardware, even if he paid for it.


You’re making an assumption. My mother messages me based on whatever app she’s using at the time that she thinks of something she wants to tell me. She’s the whole reason I have notifications turned on for several apps.


A similar thing happened recently to a kind, thoughtful YouTuber (Leah at See Jane Drill), and their Facebook account.

Unless you know someone in the industry, and even then, you’re pretty much shit outta luck.


Instagram did this to me a few years ago. They suspended my account with no notice or explanation, and simply ignored my attempts to go though their “dispute” procedure to get the account restored. I didn’t even get a “No, you can’t have your account back” message. Just silence. Fortunately, my livelihood doesn’t depend on using Instagram.

It’s not clear to me what prompted this or why they refused to engage at all. The content that I posted to Instagram consisted of fairly anodyne ‘artistic’ photographs, with no nudity or anything else anyone could object to. Aside from posting pretty pictures, my only other interactions with the platform consisted of “liking” photos posted by friends or family members.

The last pictures I posted before the banhammer fell were taken at a small demonstration, and included a few pictures of cops. One possible explanation is that one of the public servants whose photograph I posted objected to having his picture online and used some special “Report this one as a terrorist” feature available to law enforcement to get me shut down. But that’s just speculation.


The really spooky one is Google because the gmail account is account recovery for, like, everything as well as email contact for job searching and so on. Meanwhile YouTube DMCA content strikes – widely understood to be totally hackable – will flow over to your entire Google account. Consider if you link up families in the way Google likes you to. Even worse, I’m using Google Business to do everyone.

So the scenario is that my tween posts a snippet of video, has music playing in the background, and the whole family gets our comms party-wiped and I can’t even talk to the smoke detector.


amazon cut me for some supposed violation. no longer an amazon customer.


In a tiny way, something like that happened to me as well. Luckily, I wasn’t accused of anything horrible and it didn’t affect me too much to lose access to an ad account I didn’t use, but the feeling of powerlessness is real. There’s one appeal button. You click it. You get rejected. The button disappears. There is no email address or phone number posted anywhere that can connect you to a real person.


It sounds like they unwittingly did him a favor. Facebook is not mandatory. Instagram is not mandatory. “Losing” them is actually gaining back some self-respect and control of your life and data. They should be avoided for many reasons, and shit like this is only one of them.

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As others have posted, that’s not entirely true depending on your field and job; my brother does freelance photography and losing access to instagram would be a pretty serious problem for him.

Additionally, even if you insist that these are fine, you still have the bigger problems like Gmail/etc; losing access to my gmail permanently would be weeks of work to disentangle.

These big platforms have successfully wormed their way into so many different aspects of daily life, and through that now should be held responsible to handle these situations with a legally mandated level of actual transparency.


It’s best to disengage from these services ahead of time to prevent the inevitable screwing-over they’ll give you, but I get it. I’m guilty of procrastinating my transition away from Gmail for years already.

That I absolutely agree with. Facebook predictably being a scorpion that will sting anyone who uses it still doesn’t make it okay to go around stinging people. In a better world there would be stronger consumer protections to minimize the amount of abuse they can get away with.


Meta/Facebook/Instagram use bots to police content because it’s a lot cheaper than human moderation. I’ve had posts banned within a second, for no obvious reasons. Sometimes for the alleged crime of posting for Likes. I thought the Likes were point of social media. Are we supposed to post stuff that people won’t like?

However if I lost access to Instagram it would barely affect my life.

Gmail is different. If I lost my Google account I would be utterly screwed. Dozens of websites and apps use it for the login, including all my accounts for tax, ID, and other official purposes. All my fiction writing, over 800,000 words, is on Docs. It’s the backup email to my work account. And so on.

On the plus side, I don’t use Google for anything that gets “moderated”, as far as I understand it, and I’ve never had a message from them telling me off.

However, I agree that digital ID is now so essential in modern life that it can’t be left to the vagaries of barely regulated for profit corporations in foreign jurisdictions. Governments should issue secure (ha ha) digital ID services in the same way they issue social security numbers and so on.


I generally agree with this, although it wouldn’t fix the problem entirely. The biggest issue is that if Meta decides you’re a criminal, they’re going to ban you across all related services. Again, for Meta, not a big deal; but I’ve seen some nightmare stuff for Google like a small company losing all of its access because the admin happened to setup something with his personal account and then it got banned inaccurately.


I strangely had that happen the other day. I was trying to post a link to the youtube video that was in this BB story -

There was a message saying that it violated community standards.
I was able to post the above link, however, which I found strange…

As for Twitter, I have reported multiple things over the last few weeks that were outright racist in the worst way. Only to get back a response that they did not violate the TOS.


It can’t go on much longer, these cement-transparent corporations ruining people’s lives and livelihoods.

They need to be reined in with a firm hand and a stiff bit.


I use facebook but does nay one trust it, I was it at the weekend to see everyone’s northern lights photos, but also noticed every advert was spouting lies about uk political figures on the left, and paid for by accounts with pictures of Chinese ladys, i reported them all as false news, but that prob wont be enough to stop otehr seeing them and believed the, never mind the fake web sites, had both the bbc news logo and the itvs news logo on them at the same time…

They really seem to have it in for Robert Paterson for some reason (News man not vampire actor)


I’ve taken to reporting scam YouTube ads recently, you know the type; earn thousands for just an hours work, machine generated images of products etc. Every time my emails are rejected as they claim the advert meets community guidelines so some such shite. I am actually curious if there are ads they would disallow.