If waking up and realizing that your Instagram account has been deleted is your worst nightmare, imagine how you would feel if running a meme page was your full-time job. Last week, Instagram conducted a purge of over 30 popular meme accounts, deleting the pages for violating the app’s terms and services. Meme accounts have become more and more popular as Instagram has grown as a platform, and Instagram is at a crossroads in terms of regulating them. Let’s go through the details of what happened here, and why it might signal a larger shift in the culture of meme accounts. (Yes, I also hate myself for that sentence.)
In some cases, the meme pages that got purged were the main sources of income for the people who ran them. One page, @memeextraordinaire, had reportedly pulled in over $600,000 since its creation. Obviously, it’s a major decision for Instagram to take down these pages when the owners rely on them to make a living, so what was the reasoning here?
Many of the accounts that were deleted, one with as many as 13 million followers, have been known to repost memes and tweets without asking permission from or crediting the creators of the content. Apparently, Instagram has been cracking down on accounts for this type of behavior, which makes sense given the increased focus on transparency we’ve seen this year.
The expectations for meme accounts on Instagram have changed a lot in the last few years. When memes first got big, it was basically the wild west, and no one really cared about proper credits, or asking permission to repost. People (you all know who I’m talking about) would even be so brazen as to find someone’s tweet, crop off their handle, and repost the text as if they came up with the joke themselves. (Tbh, this still happens, and happened to me a few weeks ago, but at least nowadays you can trust your followers to come in the comments for the account that stole your joke.) But in 2019, and especially in the wake of the drama with F*ckJerry earlier this year, it’s a different game. Especially for accounts with millions of followers, it’s not a good look to be taking jokes from Reddit or cropping names out of tweets. It’s one thing to post content from other people, but you should be open about crediting them for their work, and ask their permission when appropriate.
Though stealing jokes without credit is uncool, the owners behind the deleted pages were obviously not happy with the decision. In one tweet, the owner of the @memeextraordinaire page claimed that he wasn’t given any good reason from Instagram for his account being disabled. Clearly, opinions differ on what the consequences of stealing jokes should be, but I don’t think it’s really fair to say that there was no reason.
this is the endgame. 40m+ followers and over $600k+ in accounts lost in two days. @instagram @facebook fucking own up to what you did and rollback, you can’t stay silent in this. peronally lost 600k+ followers for no good reason. #reactivatespicy #memepurge pic.twitter.com/xpgy8KrH2d
— Ben (@spicymp4) July 27, 2019
In case you’re wondering if any of your favorite accounts were targeted in the purge, here’s a list that Taylor Lorenz, a journalist at The Atlantic, put together of pages that were definitely deleted. It’s a long list, but rest assured that there are still tons of accounts that are posting great original content, or crediting what they repost from other creators (hi).
HUGE meme page purge last night on insta. Accounts with millions of followers (one had more than 13M alone) got deleted. pic.twitter.com/Beugxh6bm4
— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) July 26, 2019
It’s unfortunate for the people who run these accounts, but hopefully this purge will inspire others with meme accounts to be more thoughtful about the way they curate content, and maybe even push more people to actually create their own content, instead of reposting the same five memes we’ve all seen everywhere. We all just want to laugh at some memes, so there’s no reason this can’t be figured out.
For now, Instagram seems to have chilled out with deleting the accounts, but this could be just the beginning. There are many, many accounts that break rules when it comes to credit and consent when posting, and many of the rules are still in a gray area. When you think about it, meme accounts haven’t been around for all that long, so figuring out how to regulate them is obviously still a work in progress. Most importantly, if you’re using other people’s sh*t, always credit them, and ask for their permission whenever you can. It’s not that hard, and it might save you some headaches later.
Images: Shutterstock; spicymp4, TaylorLorenz / Twitter