Instagram was originally distinguished by only allowing content to be framed in a square (1:1) aspect ratio with 640 pixels to match the display width of the iPhone at the time. These restrictions were eased in 2015, with an increase to 1080 pixels. The service also added messaging features, the ability to include multiple images or videos in a single post, as well as "Stories"--similar to its main opposition Snapchat--which allows users to post photos and videos to a sequential feed, with each post accessible by others for 24 hours each. As of January 2019, the Stories feature is used by 500 million users daily.
After its launch in 2010, Instagram rapidly gained popularity, with one million registered users in two months, 10 million in a year, and 1 billion as of May 2019[update]. In April 2012, Facebook acquired the service for approximately US$1 billion in cash and stock. As of October 2015[update], over 40 billion photos had been uploaded. Although praised for its influence, Instagram has been the subject of criticism, most notably for policy and interface changes, allegations of censorship, and illegal or improper content uploaded by users.
As of May 2020, the most followed person is footballer Cristiano Ronaldo with over 220 million followers, and the most followed woman is singer Ariana Grande with over 187 million followers. As of January 14, 2019, the most-liked photo on Instagram is a picture of an egg, posted by the account @world_record_egg, created with the sole purpose of surpassing the previous record of 18 million likes on a Kylie Jenner post. The picture currently has over 54 million likes. Instagram became the 4th most downloaded mobile app of the 2010s.
On March 5, 2010, Systrom closed a $500,000 seed funding round with Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz while working on Burbn. Josh Riedel joined the company in October as Community Manager, Shayne Sweeney joined in November as an engineer, and Jessica Zollman joined as a Community Evangelist in August 2011.
The first Instagram post was a photo of South Beach Harbor at Pier 38, posted by Mike Krieger on July 16, 2010. Systrom shared his first post, a picture of a dog and his girlfriend's foot, a few hours later (at 9:24 PM). It has been wrongly attributed as the first Instagram photo due to the earlier letter of the alphabet in its URL.[better source needed] On October 6, 2010, the Instagram iOS app was officially released through the App Store.
In February 2011, it was reported that Instagram had raised $7 million in Series A funding from a variety of investors, including Benchmark Capital, Jack Dorsey, Chris Sacca (through Capital fund), and Adam D'Angelo. The deal valued Instagram at around $20 million. In April 2012, Instagram raised $50 million from venture capitalists with a $500 million valuation.Joshua Kushner was the second largest investor in Instagram's Series B fundraising round, leading his investment firm, Thrive Capital, to double its money after the sale to Facebook.
2012-2014: Additional platforms and acquisition by Facebook
On April 3, 2012, Instagram released a version of its app for Android phones, and it was downloaded more than one million times in less than one day. The Android app has since received two significant updates: first, in March 2014, which cut the file size of the app by half and added performance improvements; then in April 2017, to add an offline mode that allows users to view and interact with content without an Internet connection. At the time of the announcement, it was reported that 80% of Instagram's 600 million users are located outside the U.S., and while the aforementioned functionality was live at its announcement, Instagram also announced its intention to make more features available offline, and that they were "exploring an iOS version".
On April 9, 2012, Facebook, Inc. bought Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock, with a plan to keep the company independently managed. Britain's Office of Fair Trading approved the deal on August 14, 2012, and on August 22, 2012, the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. closed its investigation, allowing the deal to proceed. On September 6, 2012, the deal between Instagram and Facebook officially closed with a purchase price of $300 million in cash and 23 million shares of stock.
In November 2012, Instagram launched website profiles, allowing anyone to see user feeds from a web browser with limited functionality. 
Since the app's launch it had used the Foursquare API technology to provide named location tagging. In March 2014, Instagram started to test and switch the technology to use Facebook Places.
2015-2017: Redesign and Windows app
In June 2015, the desktop website user interface was redesigned to become more flat and minimalistic, but with more screen space for each photo and to resemble the layout of Instagram's mobile website.
Furthermore, one row of pictures only has three instead of five photos to match the mobile layout.
The slideshow banner on the top of profile pages, which simultaneously slide-showed seven picture tiles of pictures posted by the user, alternating at different times in a random order, has been removed.
In addition, the formerly angular profile pictures became circular.
On May 11, 2016, Instagram revamped its design, adding a black-and-white flat design theme for the app's user interface, and a less skeuomorphistic, more abstract, "modern" and colorful icon. Rumors of a redesign first started circulating in April, when The Verge received a screenshot from a tipster, but at the time, an Instagram spokesperson simply told the publication that it was only a concept.
On December 6, 2016, Instagram introduced comment liking. However, unlike post likes, the user who posted a comment does not receive notifications about comment likes in their notification inbox. Uploaders can optionally decide to deactivate comments onto a post.
In April 2016, Instagram released a Windows 10 Mobile app, after years of demand from Microsoft and the public to release an app for the platform. The platform previously had a beta version of Instagram, first released on November 21, 2013 for Windows Phone 8. The new app added support for videos (viewing and creating posts or stories, and viewing live streams), album posts and direct messages. Similarly, an app for Windows 10 personal computers and tablets was released in October 2016. In May, Instagram updated its mobile website to allow users to upload photos, and to add a "lightweight" version of the Explore tab.
On April 30, 2019, the Windows 10 Mobile app was discontinued, though the mobile website remains available as a progressive web application (PWA) with limited functionality. The app remains available on Windows 10 computers and tablets, also updated to a PWA in 2020.
2018-present: IGTV, management changes and new features
IGTV launched on June 20, 2018 as a standalone video application.
On September 24, 2018, Krieger and Systrom announced in a statement they would be stepping down from Instagram. On October 1, 2018, it was announced that Adam Mosseri would be the new head of Instagram.
During Facebook F8, it was announced that Instagram would, beginning in Canada, pilot the removal of publicly-displayed "like" counts for content posted by other users. Like counts would only be visible to the user who originally posted the content. Mosseri stated that this was intended to have users "worry a little bit less about how many likes they're getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about." It has been argued that low numbers of likes in relativity to others could contribute to a lower self-esteem in users. The pilot began in May 2019, and was extended to 6 other markets in July. The pilot was expanded worldwide in November 2019. Also in July 2019, Instagram announced that it would implement new features designed to reduce harassment and negative comments on the service.
In August 2019, Instagram also began to pilot the removal of the "Following" tab from the app, which had allowed users to view a feed of the likes and comments made by users they follow. The change was made official in October, with head of product Vishal Shah stating that the feature was underused and that some users were "surprised" when they realized their activity was being surfaced in this manner.
In November 2019, it was reported that Instagram had begun to pilot a new video feature known as "Reels". It is similar in functionality to the Chinese video-sharing service TikTok, with a focus on allowing users to record short videos set to pre-existing sound clips from other posts.
In March 2020, Instagram launched a new feature called "Co-Watching". The new feature allows users to share posts with each other over video calls. According to Instagram, they pushed forward the launch of Co-Watching in order to meet the demand for virtually connecting with friends and family as more people are told to stay at home and "social distance" as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Features and tools
An original photograph (left) is automatically cropped to a square by Instagram, and has a filter added at the selection of the user (right).
A photo collage of an unprocessed image (top left) modified with the 16 different Instagram filters available in 2011
Users can upload photographs and short videos, follow other users' feeds, and geotag images with the name of a location. Users can set their account as "private", thereby requiring that they approve any new follower requests. Users can connect their Instagram account to other social networking sites, enabling them to share uploaded photos to those sites. In September 2011, a new version of the app included new and live filters, instant tilt-shift, high-resolution photographs, optional borders, one-click rotation, and an updated icon. Photos were initially restricted to a square, 1:1 aspect ratio; since August 2015, the app supports portrait and widescreen aspect ratios as well. Users could formerly view a map of a user's geotagged photos. The feature was removed in September 2016, citing low usage.
Since December 2016, posts can be "saved" into a private area of the app. The feature was updated in April 2017 to let users organize saved posts into named collections. Users can also "archive" their posts in a private storage area, out of visibility for the public and other users. The move was seen as a way to prevent users from deleting photos that don't garner a desired number of "likes" or are deemed boring, but also as a way to limit the "emergent behavior" of deleting photos, which deprives the service of content. In August, Instagram announced that it would start organizing comments into threads, letting users more easily interact with replies.
Since February 2017, up to ten pictures or videos can be included in a single post, with the content appearing as a swipeable carousel. The feature originally limited photos to the square format, but received an update in August to enable portrait and landscape photos instead.
In April 2018, Instagram launched its version of a portrait mode called "focus mode," which gently blurs the background of a photo or video while keeping the subject in focus when selected. In November, Instagram began to support Alt text to add descriptions of photos for the visually impaired. They are either generated automatically using object recognition (using existing Facebook technology) or manually specified by the uploader.
In January 2011, Instagram introduced hashtags to help users discover both photos and each other. Instagram encourages users to make tags both specific and relevant, rather than tagging generic words like "photo", to make photographs stand out and to attract like-minded Instagram users.
Users on Instagram have created "trends" through hashtags. The trends deemed the most popular on the platform often highlight a specific day of the week to post the material on. Examples of popular trends include #SelfieSunday, in which users post a photo of their faces on Sundays; #MotivationMonday, in which users post motivational photos on Mondays; #TransformationTuesday, in which users post photos highlighting differences from the past to the present; #WomanCrushWednesday, in which users post photos of women they have a romantic interest in or view favorably, as well as its #ManCrushMonday counterpart centered on men; and #ThrowbackThursday, in which users post a photo from their past, highlighting a particular moment.
In December 2017, Instagram began to allow users to follow hashtags, which display relevant highlights of the topic in their feeds.
In June 2012, Instagram introduced "Explore", a tab inside the app that displays popular photos, photos taken at nearby locations, and search. The tab was updated in June 2015 to feature trending tags and places, curated content, and the ability to search for locations. In April 2016, Instagram added a "Videos You Might Like" channel to the tab, followed by an "Events" channel in August, featuring videos from concerts, sports games, and other live events, followed by the addition of Instagram Stories in October. The tab was later expanded again in November 2016 after Instagram Live launched to display an algorithmically-curated page of the "best" Instagram Live videos currently airing. In May 2017, Instagram once again updated the Explore tab to promote public Stories content from nearby places.
1977: The increased exposure with a red tint gives the photograph a rosy, brighter, faded look.
Amaro: Adds light to an image, with the focus on the center.
Brannan: Increases contrast and exposure and adds a metallic tint.
Earlybird: Gives photographs an older look with a sepia tint and warm temperature.
Hefe: High contrast and saturation, with a similar effect to Lo-Fi but not quite as dramatic.
Hudson: Creates an "icy" illusion with heightened shadows, a cool tint and a dodged center.
Inkwell: Direct shift to black-and-white - no extra editing.
Kelvin: Increases saturation and temperature to give it a radiant "glow".
Lo-fi: Enriches color and adds strong shadows through the use of saturation and "warming" the temperature.
Mayfair: Applies a warm pink tone, subtle vignetting to brighten the photograph center and a thin black border.
Nashville: Warms the temperature, lowers contrast and increases exposure to give a light "pink" tint - making it feel "nostalgic".
Rise: Adds a "glow" to the image, with softer lighting of the subject.
Sierra: Gives a faded, softer look.
Sutro: Burns photo edges, increases highlights and shadows dramatically with a focus on purple and brown colors.
Toaster: Ages the image by "burning" the center and adds a dramatic vignette.
Valencia: Fades the image by increasing exposure and warming the colors, to give it an antique feel.
Walden: Increases exposure and adds a yellow tint.
Willow: A monochromatic filter with subtle purple tones and a translucent white border.
X-Pro II: Increases color vibrancy with a golden tint, high contrast and slight vignette added to the edges.
Slumber: Desaturates the image as well as adds haze for a retro, dreamy look - with an emphasis on blacks and blues.
Cream: Adds a creamy look that both warms and cools the image.
Ludwig: A slight hint of desaturation that also enhances light.
Aden: This filter gives a blue/green natural look.
Perpetua: Adding a pastel look, this filter is ideal for portraits.
Clarendon: Intensifies shadows and brightens highlights. Originally released as a video-only filter.
Gingham: Washes photos out. Gives a yellowish tone when used on dark photos or a brighter, dreamy look when used on light photos.
Moon: Black-and-white version of Gingham, with slightly more intense shadows.
Stinson: Subtle filter that brightens an image, washing out the colors slightly.
Crema: A vintage filter that desaturates images. Smooths and washes out skin tones.
Lark: Desaturates reds while punching up blues and greens - brings landscapes to life.
Reyes: Gives photos a dusty, vintage look.
Juno: Tints cool tones green, makes warm tones pop and whites glow - for vibrant photos of people.
In February 2012, Instagram added a "Lux" filter, an effect that "lightens shadows, darkens highlights and increases contrast".
In December 2014, Slumber, Crema, Ludwig, Aden, and Perpetua were five new filters to be added to the Instagram filter family.
Initially a purely photo-sharing service, Instagram incorporated 15-second video sharing in June 2013. The addition was seen by some in the technology media as Facebook's attempt at competing with the then-popular video-sharing application Vine. In August 2015, Instagram added support for widescreen videos. In March 2016, Instagram increased the 15-second video limit to 60 seconds. Albums were introduced in February 2017, which allow up to 10 minutes of video to be shared in one post.
IGTV is a vertical video application launched by Instagram in June 2018. Basic functionality is also available within the Instagram app and website. IGTV allows uploads of up to 10 minutes in length with a file size of up to 650 MB, with verified and popular users allowed to upload videos of up to 60 minutes in length with a file size of up to 5.4 GB. The app automatically begins playing videos as soon as it is launched, which CEO Kevin Systrom contrasted to video hosts where one must first locate a video.
In December 2013, Instagram announced Instagram Direct, a feature that lets users interact through private messaging. Users who follow each other can send private messages with photos and videos, in contrast to the public-only requirement that was previously in place. When users receive a private message from someone they don't follow, the message is marked as pending and the user must accept to see it. Users can send a photo to a maximum of 15 people. The feature received a major update in September 2015, adding conversation threading and making it possible for users to share locations, hashtag pages, and profiles through private messages directly from the news feed. Additionally, users can now reply to private messages with text, emoji or by clicking on a heart icon. A camera inside Direct lets users take a photo and send it to the recipient without leaving the conversation. A new update in November 2016 let users make their private messages "disappear" after being viewed by the recipient, with the sender receiving a notification if the recipient takes a screenshot. In April 2017, Instagram redesigned Direct to combine all private messages, both permanent and ephemeral, into the same message threads. In May, Instagram made it possible to send website links in messages, and also added support for sending photos in their original portrait or landscape orientation without cropping.
In August 2016, Instagram launched Instagram Stories, a feature that allows users to take photos, add effects and layers, and add them to their Instagram story. Images uploaded to a user's story expire after 24 hours. The media noted the feature's similarities to Snapchat. In response to criticism that it copied functionality from Snapchat, CEO Kevin Systrom told Recode that "Day One: Instagram was a combination of Hipstamatic, Twitter [and] some stuff from Facebook like the 'Like' button. You can trace the roots of every feature anyone has in their app, somewhere in the history of technology". Although Systrom acknowledged the criticism as "fair", Recode wrote that "he likened the two social apps' common features to the auto industry: Multiple car companies can coexist, with enough differences among them that they serve different consumer audiences". Systrom further stated that "When we adopted [Stories], we decided that one of the really annoying things about the format is that it just kept going and you couldn't pause it to look at something, you couldn't rewind. We did all that, we implemented that." He also told the publication that Snapchat "didn't have filters, originally. They adopted filters because Instagram had filters and a lot of others were trying to adopt filters as well."
In November, Instagram added live video functionality to Instagram Stories, allowing users to broadcast themselves live, with the video disappearing immediately after ending.
In January 2017, Instagram launched skippable ads, where five-second photo and 15-second video ads appear in-between different stories.
In May 2017, Instagram expanded the augmented reality sticker feature to support face filters, letting users add specific visual features onto their faces.
Later in May, TechCrunch reported about tests of a Location Stories feature in Instagram Stories, where public Stories content at a certain location are compiled and displayed on a business, landmark or place's Instagram page. A few days later, Instagram announced "Story Search", in which users can search for geographic locations or hashtags and the app displays relevant public Stories content featuring the search term.
In June 2017, Instagram revised its live-video functionality to allow users to add their live broadcast to their story for availability in the next 24 hours, or discard the broadcast immediately. In July, Instagram started allowing users to respond to Stories content by sending photos and videos, complete with Instagram effects such as filters, stickers, and hashtags.
Stories were made available for viewing on Instagram's mobile and desktop websites in late August 2017.
On December 5, 2017, Instagram introduced "Story Highlights", also known as "Permanent Stories", which are similar to Instagram Stories, but don't expire.
They appear as circles below the profile picture and biography and are accessible from the desktop website as well.
In June 2018, the daily active story users of Instagram had reached 400 million users, and monthly active users had reached 1 billion active users.
Emily White joined Instagram as Director of Business Operations in April 2013 She stated in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in September 2013 that the company should be ready to begin selling advertising by September 2014 as a way to generate business from a popular entity that had not yet created profit for its parent company. White left Instagram in December 2013 to join Snapchat. In August 2014, James Quarles became Instagram's Global Head of Business and Brand Development, tasked with overseeing advertisement, sales efforts and developing new "monetization products." according to a spokesperson.
In October 2013, Instagram announced that video and image ads would soon appear in feeds for users in the United States, with the first image advertisements displaying on November 1, 2013. Video ads followed nearly a year later on October 30, 2014. In June 2014, Instagram announced the rollout of ads in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, with ads starting to roll out that autumn.
In March 2015, Instagram announced it would implement "carousel ads," allowing advertisers to display multiple images with options for linking to additional content. The company launched carousel image ads in October 2015, and video carousel ads in March 2016.
In May 2016, Instagram launched new tools for business accounts, including business profiles, analytics and the ability to promote posts as ads. To access the tools, businesses had to link a corresponding Facebook page. The new analytics page, known as Instagram Insights, allowed business accounts to view top posts, reach, impressions, engagement and demographic data. Insights rolled out first in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, and expanded to the rest of the world later in 2016.
In February 2016, Instagram announced that it had 200,000 advertisers on the platform. This number increased to 500,000 by September 2016, and 1 million in March 2017.
In November 2018, Instagram added the ability for business accounts to add product links directing users to a purchase page or to save them to a "shopping list."  In April 2019, Instagram added the option to "Checkout on Instagram," which allows merchants to sell products directly through the Instagram app. 
In March 2020, via a blog post, Instagram announced that they are making major moderation changes in order to decrease the flow of disinformation, hoaxes and fake news regarding COVID-19 on its platform, "We'll remove COVID-19 accounts from account recommendations, and we are working to remove some COVID-19 related content from Explore unless posted by a credible health organization. We will also start to downrank content in feed and Stories that has been rated false by third-party fact-checkers."
Instagram has developed and released three stand-alone apps with specialized functionality. In July 2014, it released Bolt, a messaging app where users click on a friend's profile photo to quickly send an image, with the content disappearing after being seen. It was followed by the release of Hyperlapse in August, an iOS-exclusive app that uses "clever algorithm processing" to create tracking shots and fast time-lapse videos. Microsoft launched a Hyperlapse app for Android and Windows in May 2015, but there has been no official Hyperlapse app from Instagram for either of these platforms to date. In October 2015, it released Boomerang, a video app that combines photos into short, one-second videos that play back-and-forth in a loop.
The popularity of Instagram has led to a variety of third-party services designed to integrate with it, including services for creating content to post on the service and generating content from Instagram photos (including physical print-outs), analytics, and alternative clients for platforms with insufficient or no official support from Instagram (such as in the past, iPads).
In November 2015, Instagram announced that effective June 1, 2016, it would end "feed" API access to its platform in order to "maintain control for the community and provide a clear roadmap for developers" and "set up a more sustainable environment built around authentic experiences on the platform", including those oriented towards content creation, publishers, and advertisers. It was reported that these changes were primarily intended to discourage third-party clients replicating the entire Instagram experience (due to increasing monetization of the service), and security reasons (such as preventing abuse by automated click farms, and the hijacking of accounts). In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Instagram began to impose further restrictions on its API in 2018.
User characteristics and behavior
The Instagram app, running on the Android operating system
Following the release in October, Instagram had one million registered users in December 2010. In June 2011, it announced that it had 5 million users, which increased to 10 million in September. This growth continued to 30 million users in April 2012, 80 million in July 2012, 100 million in February 2013, 130 million in June 2013, 150 million in September 2013, 300 million in December 2014, 400 million in September 2015, 500 million in June 2016, 600 million in December 2016, 700 million in April 2017, and 800 million in September 2017.
In October 2016, Instagram Stories reached 100 million active users, two months after launch. This increased to 150 million in January 2017, 200 million in April, surpassing Snapchat's user growth, and 250 million active users in June 2017.
In April 2017, Instagram Direct had 375 million monthly users.
In June 2011, Instagram passed 100 million photos uploaded to the service. This grew to 150 million in August 2011, and by June 2013, there were over 16 billion photos on the service. In October 2015, there existed over 40 billion photos.
Instagram's users are divided equally with 50% iPhone owners and 50% Android owners. While Instagram has a neutral gender-bias format, 68% of Instagram users are female while 32% are male. Instagram's geographical use is shown to favor urban areas as 17% of US adults who live in urban areas use Instagram while only 11% of adults in suburban and rural areas do so. While Instagram may appear to be one of the most widely used sites for photo sharing, only 7% of daily photo uploads, among the top four photo-sharing platforms, come from Instagram. Instagram has been proven to attract the younger generation with 90% of the 150 million users under the age of 35. From June 2012 to June 2013, Instagram approximately doubled their number of users. With regards to income, 15% of US Internet users who make less than $30,000 per year use Instagram, while 14% of those making $30,000 to $50,000, and 12% of users who make more than $50,000 per year do so. With respect to the education demographic, respondents with some college education proved to be the most active on Instagram with 23%. Following behind, college graduates consist of 18% and users with a high school diploma or less make up 15%. Among these Instagram users, 24% say they use the app several times a day.
Ongoing research continues to explore how media content on the platform affects user engagement. Past research has found that media which show peoples' faces receive more 'likes' and comments and that using filters that increase warmth, exposure, and contrast also boosts engagement. Users are more likely to engage with images that depict fewer individuals compared to groups and also are more likely to engage with content that has not been watermarked, as they view this content as less original and reliable compared to user-generated content. Recently Instagram has come up with an option for users to apply for a verified account badge, however this does not guarantee every user who applies will get the verified blue tick.
The motives for using Instagram among young people are mainly to look at posts, particularly for the sake of social interactions and recreation. In contrast, the level of agreement expressed in creating Instagram posts was lower, which demonstrates that Instagram's emphasis on visual communication is widely accepted by young people in social communication.
Instagram was the runner-up for "Best Mobile App" at the 2010 TechCrunch Crunchies in January 2011. In May 2011, Fast Company listed CEO Kevin Systrom at number 66 in "The 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2011". In June 2011, Inc. included co-founders Systrom and Krieger in its 2011 "30 Under 30" list.
Instagram won "Best Locally Made App" in the SF Weekly Web Awards in September 2011.7x7Magazine's September 2011 issue featured Systrom and Krieger on the cover of their "The Hot 20 2011" issue. In December 2011, Apple Inc. named Instagram the "App of the Year" for 2011. In 2015, Instagram was named No. 1 by Mashable on its list of "The 100 best iPhone apps of all time," noting Instagram as "one of the most influential social networks in the world." Instagram was listed among Times "50 Best Android Applications for 2013" list.
In May 2017, a survey conducted by the United Kingdom's Royal Society for Public Health, featuring 1,479 people aged 14-24, asking them to rate social media platforms depending on anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and body image, concluded that Instagram was the "worst for young mental health". Some have suggested it may contribute to digital dependence, whist this same survey noticed its positive effects, including self-expression, self-identity, and community building. In response to the survey, Instagram stated that "Keeping Instagram a safe and supportive place for young people was a top priority". The company filters out the reviews and accounts. If some of the accounts violate Instagram's community guidelines, it will take action, which could include banning them.
Throughout 2019, Instagram began to test the hiding of like counts for posts made by its users.
In response to abusive and negative comments on users' photos, Instagram has made efforts to give users more control over their posts and accompanying comments field. In July 2016, it announced that users would be able to turn off comments for their posts, as well as control the language used in comments by inputting words they consider offensive, which will ban applicable comments from showing up. After the July 2016 announcement, the ability to ban specific words began rolling out early August to celebrities, followed by regular users in September. In December, the company began rolling out the abilities for users to turn off the comments and, for private accounts, remove followers.
In September 2017, the company announced that public users would be able to limit who can comment on their content, such as only their followers or people they follow. At the same time, it updated its automated comment filter to support additional languages.
In June 2017, Instagram announced that it would automatically attempt to filter offensive, harassing, and "spammy" comments by default. The system is built using a Facebook-developed deep learning algorithm known as DeepText (first implemented on the social network to detect spam comments), which utilizes natural-language processing techniques, and can also filter by user-specified keywords.
In July 2019, the service announced that it would introduce a system to proactively detect problematic comments and encourage the user to reconsider their comment, as well as allowing users the ability to "restrict" others' abilities to communicate with them, citing that younger users felt the existing block system was too much of an escalation.
On August 9, 2012, English musician Ellie Goulding released a new music video for her song "Anything Could Happen." The video only contained fan-submitted Instagram photographs that used various filters to represent words or lyrics from the song, and over 1,200 different photographs were submitted.
Censorship and restricted content
According to a Facebook spokesperson, on 11 January 2020, Instagram and its parent company Facebook are picking up posts "that voice support for slain Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani to comply with US sanctions".
Instagram has been the subject of criticism due to users publishing images of drugs they are selling on the platform. In 2013, the BBC discovered that users, mostly located in the United States, were posting images of drugs they were selling, attaching specific hashtags, and then completing transactions via instant messaging applications such as WhatsApp. Corresponding hashtags have been blocked as part of the company's response and a spokesperson engaged with the BBC explained:
Instagram has a clear set of rules about what is and isn't allowed on the site. We encourage people who come across illegal or inappropriate content to report it to us using the built-in reporting tools next to every photo, video or comment, so we can take action. People can't buy things on Instagram, we are simply a place where people share photos and videos.
However, new incidents of illegal drug trade have occurred in the aftermath of the 2013 revelation, with Facebook, Instagram's parent company, asking users who come across such content to report the material, at which time a "dedicated team" reviews the information.
In 2019, Facebook announced that influencers are no longer able to post any vape, tobacco products, and weapons promotions on Facebook and Instagram.
Similar incidents occurred in January 2015, when Instagram deleted Australian fashion agency Sticks and Stones Agency's account because of a photograph including pubic hair sticking out of bikini bottoms, and March 2015, when artist and poet Rupi Kaur's photos of menstrual blood on clothing were removed, prompting a rallying post on her Facebook and Tumblr accounts with the text "We will not be censored", gaining over 11,000 shares.
The incidents have led to a #FreetheNipple campaign, aimed at challenging Instagram's removal of photos displaying women's nipples. Although Instagram has not made many comments on the campaign, an October 2015 explanation from CEO Kevin Systrom highlighted Apple's content guidelines for apps published through its App Store, including Instagram, in which apps must designate the appropriate age ranking for users, with the app's current rating being 12+ years of age. However, this statement has also been called into question due to other apps with more explicit content allowed on the store, the lack of consequences for men exposing their bodies on Instagram, and for inconsistent treatment of what constitutes inappropriate exposure of the female body.
Censorship by countries
Instagram is the most popular social networking site in Iran (in red), also the only country where this is the case.
Censorship of Instagram has occurred in several different countries.
A few days after a fire incident that happened in the Koryo Hotel in North Korea in June 11, 2015, authorities began to block Instagram to prevent photos of the incident from being spread out.
In August 2017, reports surfaced that a bug in Instagram's developer tools had allowed "one or more individuals" to gain access to the contact information, specifically email addresses and phone numbers, of several high-profile verified accounts, including its most followed user, Selena Gomez. The company said in a statement that it had "fixed the bug swiftly" and was running an investigation. However, the following month, more details emerged, with a group of hackers selling contact information online, with the affected number of accounts in the "millions" rather than the previously-assumed limitation on verified accounts. Hours after the hack, a searchable database was posted online, charging $10 per search.The Daily Beast was provided with a sample of the affected accounts, and could confirm that, while many of the email addresses could be found with a Google search in public sources, some did not return relevant Google search results and thus were from private sources.The Verge wrote that cybersecurity firm RepKnight had found contact information for multiple actors, musicians, and athletes, and singer Selena Gomez's account was used by the hackers to post naked photos of her ex-boyfriend Justin Bieber. The company admitted that "we cannot determine which specific accounts may have been impacted", but believed that "it was a low percentage of Instagram accounts", though TechCrunch stated in its report that six million accounts were affected by the hack, and that "Instagram services more than 700 million accounts; six million is not a small number".
In 2019, Apple pulled an app that let users stalk people on Instagram by scraping accounts and collecting data.
On December 17, 2012, Instagram announced a change to its Terms of Service policy, adding the following sentence:
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.
There was no option for users to opt out of the changed Terms of Service without deleting their accounts before the new policy went into effect on January 16, 2013. The move garnered severe criticism from users, prompting Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom to write a blog post one day later, announcing that they would "remove" the offending language from the policy. Citing misinterpretations about its intention to "communicate that we'd like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram", Systrom also stated that it was "our mistake that this language is confusing" and that "it is not our intention to sell your photos". Furthermore, he wrote that they would work on "updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear".
The policy change and its backlash caused competing photo services to use the opportunity to "try to lure users away" by promoting their privacy-friendly services, and some services experienced substantial gains in momentum and user growth following the news. On December 20, Instagram announced that the advertising section of the policy would be reverted to its original October 2010 version.The Verge wrote about that policy as well, however, noting that the original policy gives the company right to "place such advertising and promotions on the Instagram Services or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content", meaning that "Instagram has always had the right to use your photos in ads, almost any way it wants. We could have had the exact same freakout last week, or a year ago, or the day Instagram launched".
The policy update also introduced an arbitration clause, which remained even after the language pertaining to advertising and user content had been modified.
Algorithm and design changes
In April 2016, Instagram began rolling out a change to the order of photos visible in a user's timeline, shifting from a strictly chronological order to one determined by an algorithm. Instagram said the algorithm was designed so that users would see more of the photos by users that they liked, but there was significant negative feedback, with many users asking their followers to turn on post notifications in order to make sure they see updates. The company wrote a tweet to users upset at the prospect of the change, but did not back down, nor provide a way to change it back.
Since 2017, Instagram has employed the ability to reduce the prominence of accounts ("shadowbanning") it believes may be generating non-genuine engagement and spam (including excessive use of unneeded hashtags), preventing posts from appearing in search results and in the app's Explore section. In a now-deleted Facebook post, Instagram wrote that "When developing content, we recommend focusing on your business objective or goal rather than hashtags". Instagram has since been accused of extending the practice to censor posts under vague and inconsistent circumstances, particularly in regards to sexually suggestive material.
Instagram caused the userbase to fall into outrage, with the December 2018 update. They found an attempt to alter the flow of the feed from the traditional vertical scroll to emulate and piggy-back the popularity of their Instagram Stories with a horizontal scroll, by swiping left. Various backtracking statements were released explaining it as a bug, or as a test release that had been accidentally deployed to too large an audience.
Facebook acquisition as a violation of US antitrust law
Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu has given public talks explaining that Facebook's 2012 purchase of Instagram was a felony. A New York Post article published on February 26, 2019, reported that "the FTC had uncovered [a document] by a high-ranking Facebook executive who said the reason the company was buying Instagram was to eliminate a potential competitor". As Wu explains, this is a violation of US antitrust law (see monopoly). Wu stated that this document was an email directly from Mark Zuckerberg, whereas the Post article had stated that their source had declined to say whether the high-ranking executive was the CEO. The article reported that the FTC "has formed a task force to review "anticompetitive conduct" in the tech world amid concerns that tech companies are growing too powerful. The task force will look at "the full panoply of remedies" if it finds "competitive harm," FTC competition bureau director Bruce Hoffman told reporters."
Algorithmic advertisement with a rape threat
In 2016, Olivia Solon, a reporter for The Guardian, posted a screenshot to her Instagram profile of an email she had received containing threats of rape and murder towards her. The photo post had received three likes and countless comments, and in September 2017, the company's algorithms turned the photo into an advertisement visible to Solon's sister. An Instagram spokesperson apologized and told The Guardian that "We are sorry this happened - it's not the experience we want someone to have. This notification post was surfaced as part of an effort to encourage engagement on Instagram. Posts are generally received by a small percentage of a person's Facebook friends". As noted by the technology media, the incident occurred at the same time parent company Facebook was under scrutiny for its algorithms and advertising campaigns being used for offensive and negative purposes.
^Bakhshi, Saeideh; Shamma, David A.; Gilbert, Eric (2014). "Faces Engage Us: Photos with Faces Attract More Likes and Comments on Instagram". Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. CHI '14. New York, NY, USA: ACM: 965-974. doi:10.1145/2556288.2557403. ISBN9781450324731.
^Thomson, T. J.; Greenwood, Keith (October 2, 2017). "I "Like" That: Exploring the Characteristics That Promote Social Media Engagement With News Photographs". Visual Communication Quarterly. 24 (4): 203-218. doi:10.1080/15551393.2017.1388701. ISSN1555-1393.