Instagram is the most popular platform for photographers to display their work and reach an audience. If you know how, you can even turn it into a business and make a living off it. Imagine now, you wake up and Instagram has deleted all your family photos, favorite memories, connections, friends, and portfolio work?
That is exactly what happened to Kenneth LeRose on the 21st of August 2019. After having reported a few accounts that were impersonating him it seems Instagram mistakenly took him for being the fraud and deleted two of his pages. As he knew this was a mistake he assumed he could get help through the Instagram help and support pages. After all, he had never posted anything that violates Instagram’s policies or guidelines. One wonders how that happens in the first place. Why is Instagram not verifying an account that obviously has existed longer, is bigger, and has more organic reach than the imposters have before closing it down?
Over the years LeRose has built up a community and business that allows him to live his dream life in an airstream and travel full time. He is very dependent on social media for his income and without it, the dream ends. Although he both has a YouTube and a Facebook page, it is his Instagram that contains the largest following. His income is divided between teaching photography workshops, selling his art online, and he has transformed his airstream into a gallery called “Master Art Gallery on Wheels”.
Frustrated that the fake accounts were still active he used his dogs Instagram account to report the fakers a second time. As soon as he reported the fake accounts on the morning of the 22nd, Instagram deactivated his dog's account too!
Imagine the frustration having having several years of build up taken from you. Instagram has no phone number or e-mail to reach their customer service. You can only create tickets from within the app. Three weeks later and after having sent hundreds of tickets, pictures of himself, and his license Instagram did not resolve the problem. The only responses he got was generic automated emails.
He created a backup account to make sure he was present on the platform and to have contact to the closest friends and followers at @krl_photo_backup. He asked people to help him out tagging @Instagram in their photos and send tickets.
Facebook owns Instagram and the amount of stories about either companies’ incompetence in handling their own platforms are staggering. Obviously, we should not complain about having a “free” service (it is not actually free, we all know we pay with our information), which allows us to build up a business on our own. However, when that same “free” service pulls the rug out from underneath our feet it becomes a huge ethical violation.
As with the writing of this article, LeRose’s three accounts were restored. A person who works at Instagram had seen one of the many posts his followers had created and reacted to it by making an internal ticket to Instagram informing about the situation. Within 24 hours, the three accounts were reinstated. LeRose then asked the person to help one of his friends who were in the same situation. The friend’s account was reinstated 24 hours later.
LeRose’s story has been brought in a local Texan magazine too but it took an employee to see a post where Instagram was tagged for the situation to be solved. Is that really what it takes for Instagram to take affair? Maybe next time let us make a chain SMS or chain email? It is extremely worrying that Instagram uncritically removes someone’s account and you cannot get it back through the official means.
So, what can we learn from all this?
Firstly, the photography community is fantastic and willing to help each other. Secondly, do not put all your eggs in one basket. Even though LeRose did not risk everything on one endeavor, it is important for every one of us who depends on the social media to reach our audience, not to just focus on one platform.
Both LeRose and I find it important to bring awareness to a situation like this. Whether it was a human error or the algorithm that blocked LeRose from his accounts this just must not happen.
Be sure to check out the work of LeRose here:
Have you had similar experience or heard similar stories? Let me know down below.
All images used with permission from Kenneth LeRose