Regulating Online Behaviour on Instagram

Some common themes and benefits associated with web 2.0 platforms include; user involvement, online collaboration, participatory cultures and two-way mutually beneficial relationships (particularly from an organisational or marketing perspective anyway).  As a result of this, online users feel that they not only have the right, but are encouraged to comment, tweet, hashtag and blog their personal contributions and thoughts and to share them across the web.

However, just like in the real world, such as at university or in the workplace, online communities have normative or accepted behaviours for their users, which differ greatly from platform to platform. For example, Rotten Tomatoes expects for reviewers to leave honest reviews, which quite often may highlight negative perspectives, such as a poorly developed plot line or character in a movie. Alternatively, the normative behaviour for a Health Support Community, like body image forum such as Women’s Forum Australia, have expectations pertaining to comments to be encouraging and supportive.

In saying that, there will always be a percentage of people who will behave in a way that is unacceptable, or that pushes the boundaries for that particular website or platform, in order to behave however they please. Quite often these ‘bad actors’ are commonly referred to as ‘trolls’, ‘manipulators’, ‘spammers’ and even ‘flamers’.  And therefore, in order for online contributions to be useful and beneficial for harnessing the collective intelligence, as well as for crowd sourcing purposes and ultimately ensuring the web 2.0 platform is still being enjoyed, behaviours must be regulated.

Behaviour Regulation and Instagram

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Instagram, it is a popular photo sharing social media platform, where users can upload, edit and share images, with their ‘followers’ and use hashtags to ‘categorise’ them, the same as Twitter. Instagram has only been around since 2010 and has grown vastly, with reportedly an average of 60 million photos being uploaded each day. I use instagram on a daily basis, for personal and work-related use, and throughout my use have seen spam-like and inappropriate behaviour, which prompted my research about how Instagram really is regulating behaviour on this ever-expending platform. Instagram

Instagram does have readily available and clear Community Guidelines, Terms of Use and Abuse and Spam pages, outlining clear guidelines and policies for using their services, as well as what is deemed as appropriate behaviour.

I believe Instagram is implementing two areas from the design claims relating to good regulation of behaviours in online communities; including limiting the effects of bad behaviours and coercing compliance by limiting behaviours. There are obvious functions and capabilities for users on Instagram to report inappropriate and spam behaviour, such as being able to directly report an image or comment, which is then moderated by Instagram against their policies of what is and is not allowed. Instagram sends warnings to some users who have behaved in a poor manner and can suspend an Instagrammer’s account for continued breaches or a serious misuse of the service if the breach is deemed serious enough. However, these practices have opened Instagram up to criticisms from certain users saying that these consequences just encourage offenders to pursue this behaviour further, particularly if they feel their account was unfairly or wrongly deactivated.

A feature that I think Instagram was right in implementing and that is suitable to limit bad behaviours and coerce compliance is their usage limits on certain behaviours. Instagram has activity quotas, just like on Twitter, to prevent spam-like activities such as following, liking or tagging too many people and their images, particularly over specific time periods.

One recommendation that I think Instagram could consider to encourage voluntary compliance and reduce the number of offenses from their users, would be to offer reminders at the point of action when users may violate the normative behaviour. For example, a warning message could appear to a user when they are commenting on a person’s photo that they do not follow or if they have commented more than 2-3 times in the space of a few hours, similar to Ebay’s negative feedback warnings.

I am interested to know what you think. How do you think Instagram may change their terms and actions for regulating behaviours in the future? Do you think what they are doing is working or is there something else they could be doing? I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions!

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18 responses to “Regulating Online Behaviour on Instagram”

  1. Jaifar says :

    Hi Brittany,

    Very informative blog post about Instagram. Indeed Instagram did grow and spread vastly in quite a short time. Many people are starting to use Instagram for commercial purposes and it’s a very powerful tool to new startups. Couple of days ago I was reading on Forbes that a photographer who have an account in Instagram with more than 160k followers has announced that he will sell a printed copy of any of his photos in his account for just 100$ and he was able to generate more than 10,000$ worths of sales in 24 hours. I think Instagram can improve it’s platform by integrating it with e-commerce tools like payment options. Thanks for your post, I enjoyed reading it.

    • brittsmith2014 says :

      Hi Jaifar!
      Thank you for your comment. I have heard of quite a few e-commerce tools and platforms that are associated with Instagram, such as photobooks, photo printing and even at my local shopping centre now there is a store where you can login to your instagram in their store and they will print you a t-shirt with one of your images. So it’s definitely amazing to think the possibilities for Instagram in the upcoming years! I think that in terms of regulating behaviour, because the actual e-commerce side of things isn’t actually apart of Instagram itself yet that it wouldn’t affect it so much. What do you think?

      Thanks again 🙂

      • Jaifar says :

        Hi Brittany,

        True. Most of platforms and tools are taking advantage of Instagram API to build new features that integrates with Instagram platform. I think it’s about time Instagram starts thinking of the e-commerce side, many new startups keep pushing their platform while forgetting about ways to monetize it and eventually their user-base grows massively to the point where they can’t afford to sustain it.

        Regards.

  2. sai goutham says :

    Hi,

    Nice post, you started off with nice preamble and came up with good example instagram relating it to the online community behaviour. As you said Instagram is facilitating users with options like “how to address abuse?”, “reporting something about spamming” which limits the effects of bad behaviour. There is a new regulating terms associated recently with instagram that is 1. you dont sell, transfer, license or assign your account, followers, username, or any account rights. 2. create an account for anyone other than yourself
    solicit, 3. collect or log in with other users’ credentials these new terms comply with “rewards and sactions” where in each and every time user has to verify his account not violating the social norms. Instagram will terminate the account if users post anything that is prohibited. Use of Instagram for an illegal or unauthorized purpose is still prohibited is the initial regulating policy but new the terms now include a list of unlawful acts. The new terms say, “You must not defame, stalk, bully, abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate people or entities. It also expands the kinds of activities and content considered spam.

    Generally certain platforms like facebook requests you to access your profile information if its necessary but it does not keen more on your personal data but where as it is different with instagram before signing up for an account the new terms asks us to agree with the statement “you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the content that you post on or through the Service”. This new license expand the Instagram rights to reuse it to the third parties(transferable and sub-licensable). So In this scenario I think that high authorities themselves acts as moderators they modify or change the data, redirect inapproproiate data etc.. The terms and argreements for the instagram are not constant they do fluctuate quite often, as instagram can access the whole information of the user posts and content do you think this impacts the instagram in loosing its users?.

    Further more I just wanted to discuss about the pattern software above the level of the single device and its impact on instagram.

    It is a fifth pattern of web2.0 structure, it mainly describes about the importance of how people can access different services and with the portable and mobile devices.

    Instagram is pretty much connected to this pattern. It is one of the best applications available for photo customization through mobile phones, one can easliy edit or modify the photos easily in his or her mobile phones and can share them to the social networking sites such as facebook. It is also treated as the social networking site as its creates users own web profile which allows other users to use their instagram like social media site and they can follow other’s users photos too. This application is completely portable it is compatible with the platforms such as android, blackberry 10, iOS, windows etc. It is freely downloadble and provides all the functionalities that a instagram website provides. Moreover, you can apply as many filters as you can to a picture by hitting a single click.

    I hope I have contributed some thing important to your blog. Looking forward to seeing you next post.

    Thankyou

    References:

    Information about instagram retrived from http://elliottbledsoe.com/brain-drain/wtf/wtf-instagram-tou-16-jan-2013/ , http://help.instagram.com/535503073130320/

    • brittsmith2014 says :

      Hi Sai Goutham!
      Thank you for your comment- I am really glad that you enjoyed my first post!

      I did read those new additions to the terms and conditions and find them quite interesting. Quite a number of people created ‘fan’ instagram accounts or even ones for their pets, so according to those new guidelines they would be breaking the rules. Do you think instagram will regulate that?

      I understand what you mean about Instagram changing their policies regularly, however I think as for many social media platforms this is necessary to ensure that their policies reflect any changes made to the actual platform itself, as well as dealing with any new issues that arise. As Jason mentioned in our lecture, people will always find a way to break the rules or behave inappropriately and quite often an organisation or social media platform, in this instance, has to respond accordingly by changing some its terms and conditions.

      Your input about Instagram in relation to the pattern of Software above the level of a single device was great- thank you so much for contributing that and allowing me to consider the other side of the task for this week! The Instagram app and platform provides so many capabilities!

      Thanks again 🙂

  3. Nathan Merry says :

    I really like your post Brittany.

    I agree that spam is the most annoying issue with Instagram. I think that what they are doing is the best action as there is no reason people would need to make so many posts or add so many friends unless they were spamming. Instances of it still happen of course but I am yet to find any fool-proof method of dealing with that.

    • brittsmith2014 says :

      Hi Nathan,

      Thanks so much for your comment! I am glad you agree that spam is the most common issue in terms of regulating behaviour. What are your thoughts on Instagram having a reminder system if, for instance, someone did go to comment on the same photo more than 2 times? Do you think this might actually sway people away from doing it?

      I definitely agree that spam may always be an issue as long as there are people out there willing to troll and cause grief or annoyance to others, it seems like as long as the majority are behaving in the right way then the actions Instagram has in place would be able to manage this.

      Thanks again 🙂

  4. Michael Feeney says :

    Instagram is a great example of this sort of behaviour. Though you only touched on it at the beginning, I think that the organising, collaborative elements of instagram–ie. tagging–are fundamental to how Instagram should be regulating behaviour.

    If a community is already built on the idea of self-organising, self-categorising content, then by extension self-regulation is the next logical step. As you point out, there is already a process for reporting abuse/reporting offensive comment built into the comment system of Instagram: this is exactly the approach to regulating behaviour they should be taking. It requires way less administration and maintenance then manually moderation and helps motivate users to ‘clean up’ the service and make it more useful for everyone.

    This of course only works so long as the standards of the community actually reflects decency and good behaviour. If the balance tipped in favour of the mis-managed, trolls, and bad actors I’m not sure how long self-regulation could hold up.

    Something to consider at least! The architecture of Instagram’s entire system hinges on this tenuous notion that the majority users are inherently interested in following the rules. Let’s hope it stays that way.

    • brittsmith2014 says :

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks so much for your comment!

      I definitely agree that self-regulation on Instagram is important to ensure that those who are behaving inappropriately or against the terms do face consequences. Many articles I read in preparation to my blog said that people who reported others on social media platforms were just ‘dobbers’ and ruining it for the rest, but I disagree. What you say about the standards of the community is a really interesting point to make, I can’t imagine Instagram would continue being as successful as it has been if the balance was tipped in favour of the bad actors, I think I would definitely reconsider using it anyway.

      Something that I did come across that is interesting in relation to this, a quote from Michelle Starr in reference to bad online behaviour, she said “By raising our expectations of what is acceptable online behaviour, an individual’s desire for community acceptance becomes a disincentive to behaving badly.” (http://www.cnet.com.au/bad-online-behaviour-relies-on-group-acceptance-339346379.htm) What are your thoughts on that?

      Thanks again 🙂

  5. sai goutham says :

    Hi,

    Nice post, you started off with nice preamble and came up with good example instagram relating it to the online community behaviour. As you said Instagram is facilitating users with options like “how to address abuse?”, “reporting something about spamming” which limits the effects of bad behaviour. There is a new regulating terms associated recently with instagram that is 1. you dont sell, transfer, license or assign your account, followers, username, or any account rights. 2. create an account for anyone other than yourself
    solicit, 3. collect or log in with other users’ credentials these new terms comply with “rewards and sactions” where in each and every time user has to verify his account not violating the social norms. Instagram will terminate the account if users post anything that is prohibited. Use of Instagram for an illegal or unauthorized purpose is still prohibited is the initial regulating policy but new the terms now include a list of unlawful acts. The new terms say, “You must not defame, stalk, bully, abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate people or entities. It also expands the kinds of activities and content considered spam.

    Generally certain platforms like facebook requests you to access your profile information if its necessary but it does not keen more on your personal data but where as it is different with instagram before signing up for an account the new terms asks us to agree with the statement “you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the content that you post on or through the Service”. This new license expand the Instagram rights to reuse it to the third parties(transferable and sub-licensable). So In this scenario I think that high authorities themselves acts as moderators they modify or change the data, redirect inapproproiate data etc.. The terms and argreements for the instagram are not constant they do fluctuate quite often, as instagram can access the whole information of the user posts and content do you think this impacts the instagram in loosing its users?.

    Further more I just wanted to discuss about the pattern software above the level of the single device and its impact on instagram.

    It is a fifth pattern of web2.0 structure, it mainly describes about the importance of how people can access different services and with the portable and mobile devices.

    Instagram is pretty much connected to this pattern. It is one of the best applications available for photo customization through mobile phones, one can easliy edit or modify the photos easily in his or her mobile phones and can share them to the social networking sites such as facebook. It is also treated as the social networking site as its creates users own web profile which allows other users to use their instagram like social media site and they can follow other’s users photos too. This application is completely portable it is compatible with the platforms such as android, blackberry 10, iOS, windows etc. It is freely downloadble and provides all the functionalities that a instagram website provides. Moreover, you can apply as many filters as you can to a picture by hitting a single click.

    I hope I have contributed some thing important to your blog. Looking forward to seeing you next post.

    Thankyou

    References:

    Information about instagram retrived from http://elliottbledsoe.com/brain-drain/wtf/wtf-instagram-tou-16-jan-2013/ , http://help.instagram.com/535503073130320/

    • brittsmith2014 says :

      Hi Sai Goutham!

      Thanks for your comment- I have replied to your original response after receiving your Facebook message about your comments being the same! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

  6. mjeed2009 says :

    Hi Brittany,
    I like your post and a great platform to talk about in relation to the online community behaviour. Instagram is a very popular platform nowadays and unfortunately like any other platform there are bad behaviour from users. You mentioned about 60 million photos posted daily from different users, it’s a huge number and i think it is going to grow in the next couple of months which could mean more spam and bad behaviour from users.

    Do you think they should have a number of volunteered supervisors who are willing to monitor a certain number of users, for example in Queensland, Australia they would have 50 supervisors who are monitoring and eliminating any bad behaviour? What they are doing now I think is working but in the future there will be more posts posted daily and more active users and they will need to work on better ways to monitor or reduce bad behaviour.
    Great post looking forward for the next one 🙂

    • brittsmith2014 says :

      Hi there!

      Thank you for your comment. You propose some interesting ideas as to how Instagram may regulate and monitor behaviour, however I am not sure that people would want to volunteer to monitor users, I think it would be different if they were getting paid but then that is a lot of expense for Instagram. Would you be interested in volunteering for something like that? You are definitely right that this self-regulation is working now but may not always, I did notice today though that when I logged in to Instagram there was a warning on my ‘news’ page that said “We’ve removed deactivated and spam accounts. Your list of followers and people you follow may have changed.” So it is obvious that Instagram are monitoring and regulating the behaviour of different account types, which is great!

      Thanks again 🙂

      • mjeed2009 says :

        i got the same warning twice this month, i guess they are doing great job in regulating online behavior.

        Thank you for your reply

  7. mohammedbadhurais says :

    It is interesting blog. I really enjoyed reading how Regulating Online Behaviour on Instagram platform works. Indeed, Instagram is a common photo sharing social media platform nowadays. Also, I’m totally agreed that Instagram has obtainable and strong community guidelines and terms of conditions. It was interesting information about how Instagram limits their bad behaviours. Moreove, bad social networks user behaviour is a fact that people can experiences during their social networks activity.
    Thank you for your valuable post.

    • brittsmith2014 says :

      Hi there.

      Thank you for your comment!

      You mention that you thought it was interesting the limits of behaviour that Instagram has, do you think that the behaviour limits that Instagram has in place are appropriate? You are right, people will at some stage experience bad behaviour throughout their social network experience and that can impact them, which is why I feel that so many popular sites have such strong and specific guidelines and rules. What do you think?

      I look forward to hearing your ideas. Thanks again 🙂 Brittany

  8. aldamakh says :

    Hi Brittany,

    I enjoyed reading your post, I think you carefully examined Instagram against “Regulating Online Behaviour” pattern. In fact , I think Instagram not only try to address the online community behaviour ” The Bad ones” but to educate the community and bring them aboard to deal and assist as moderators and tack bad behaviour.

    For instance, one serious issue with online behaviour is Cyberbullying. Instagram made available Clear outlines “Learn How to Address Abuse”, in which how can be deal it with and reach out to the other community participates for help. Moreover, It provides links to other formal pages to deal with this issue.

    I believe another aspect to consider when dealing with an an online community is to analysis the community behavior. Dr. Matthew Rowe from Lancaster University suggested in his article an approach to analysis behaviors in three main stages Behavior modelling , Role Mining and Role Inference. All the best..

    Thanks

    http://stcsn.ieee.net/e-letter/vol-1-no-2/modelling-and-analysis-of-user-behaviour-in-online-communities

  9. sauravkhadka says :

    Hello brittsmith,

    Wonderful post on regulating online behavior and the Instagram. Instagram is one of the most popular site for photos uploads and sharing. It is a large online community with lots of users in it. I agree with what you said, before taking any actions related to the users sending a warning, or negative feedback like in eBay can be a wonderful step. Whereas, direct suspension of users account, or similar kind of activities will cause negative impression of the platform on the users and other people too. And, that may lead to unregistered users to not even register with the platform.

    Cheers!! 🙂

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