Socialist Media

By Michael Baker

A whole lot of people were pretty upset about the recent announcement that Facebook-owned photo-sharing app Instagram planned to begin displaying user’s pictures in its ads; so upset that Instagram has dropped the campaign in deference to its whiny, entitled users.

While I’m all about privacy, it never ceases to amaze me how little people understand about their ownership of content that they post online, and how unwilling they are to acknowledge that those who run social media are out to turn a profit.  If you want to keep your photos private, you probably shouldn’t make them public, and you certainly should make them public using a program that, by its terms of use, acquires a free license to every picture that is posted.  They don’t own your photos, but they do own the right to do whatever they want with them, and that includes using them in ads.

Social media is an industry.  Facebook reportedly paid $1 billion to acquire Instagram, and they didn’t do it because they thought the app would be so much fun for their users.  That was an investment, and presumably one that Facebook would like to see pay off.  How do you make a free app pay off if you can’t utilize the only commodity that it has – its user-generated content?  I’m not sure that you can.

So, one of two things is going to happen.  Either Instagram is going to have to start charging its users (that, presumably, would be a disaster, since anyone under the age of 25 thinks that anything on the internet needs to be free), or its going to have come up with a way of capitalizing off of users’ photos without them catching wind of it (that would also be a disaster, but only to the extent that users are paying attention).  Either way, the everything for free attitude of social media users is a sepia-toned nightmare for Instagram.