Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New Instagram policy provokes users' outrage

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THINGS are getting ugly in Instagramland.

The photo-sharing site's controversial new policy allowing it to profit from sharing members' photos with advertisers has sparked a user revolt. Budding photographers blacked out their home pages in protest, or left neatly cropped photos of obscene hand gestures where they'd once posted cute puppies or dreamy cloudscapes. Some of the site's rock stars threatened to pick up and leave. And the blogosphere filled with angst over what many see as another example of big social networking exploiting its loyal customers for the corporate bottom line.

In a blog post Tuesday afternoon entitled "Thank you, and we're listening," Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom seemed to muddy the waters even more, as Instagram users tried to decipher the legalese of the terms of service agreement that had been tweaked.

"One of the main reasons these documents don't take effect immediately, but instead 30 days from now, is that we wanted to make sure you had an opportunity to raise any concerns," Systrom wrote. "You've done that and are doing that, and that will help us provide the clarity you deserve. ... Please stay tuned for updates coming soon."

In his note, Systrom apologized for the confusing language, stating, "It is not our intention to sell your photos." Yet he was vague on precisely what their intention was, writing, "We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear."

Many users feel betrayed by Instagram, which Facebook purchased earlier this year in a deal originally valued at $1 billion in cash and stock. Their creative output, they felt, was now at risk of being exploited by a service they had trusted with their most personal photographs.

"I think the outrage is warranted because these new rules represent such a sea change from what Instagram was when it first started," said Richard Koci Hernandez, assistant professor at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

-- San Jose Mercury News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 19, 2012 B5

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