Did You Fall For That Instagram Privacy Hoax?

Photographed by Serena Brown.
Facebook, personified, is a well-meaning, oversharing aunt who just loves dogs-who-are-friends-with-birds videos. Twitter, her wise-ass son with a penchant for going off. Of a different generation, and yet still in the same family, is Instagram, her tiny shirt, big pants-sporting niece whose preferred mode of communication is DMs and who most definitely does not fall for viral chain mail hoaxes. Or so I thought. But suddenly, everyone is getting all gullible on Instagram, and it's weirding me out. Why did so many people fall for that so-obviously-phony chain mail-esque Insta-hoax?
If you don't know what I'm talking about, a screen-grabbed block of text about Instagram's allegedly changing privacy policy made the rounds on Instagram this week, imploring people to repost the message if they don't want Instagram to make everything they've ever posted public.
"Don’t forget Deadline tomorrow !!! Everything you’ve ever posted becomes public from tomorrow. Even messages that have been deleted or the photos not allowed. It costs nothing for a simple copy and paste, better safe than sorry. Channel 13 News talked about the change in Instagram’s privacy policy. I do not give Instagram or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, messages or posts, both past and future. With this statement, I give notice to Instagram it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile and/or its contents. ... NOTE: Instagram is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this. If you prefer, you can copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once it will be tacitly allowing the use of your photos, as well as the information contained in the profile status updates."
Some high stakes for such a sloppily constructed message. And so many questions! Like, what is Channel 13 News? Also, every mention of Instagram appears bolded, like it was just filled into an already-existing template. And, unsurprisingly, it was — this exact warning made the rounds on Facebook in 2012 and duped users then, too.
But this time around, celebrity engagement had a big, messy hand in spreading the misinformation. Among the offenders: Scooter Braun, Judd Apatow, Julianne Moore, Julia Roberts, Taraji P. Henson, Wacka Flocka Flame, and...Rick Perry, head of the Department of Energy, all of whom posted the message, some with a little editorialising of their own in the caption section. (My favourite: Scooter Braun, who just wrote: "Safe.")
Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, responded with a message on his Story squashing the rumours of a change in Instagram's privacy policy, and since then, many users have deleted their posts. But the virality of the post, which gained steam in mere hours, speaks to a larger trend of our wavering trust in the internet (and particularly, Facebook), as well as our tendency to believe whatever we read online. But most of all, it demonstrates a general lack of knowledge around privacy rules and what personal information of ours these online entities are entitled to possess.
That so many were so quick to blindly believe and repost this fake news means that we're aware, at least abstractly, that our information is out there and vulnerable — and that we'll copy and paste anything to protect it.

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