'New' Instagram photo hoax fools celebrities into spreading it widely

Celebrity Instagram users, including Taraji P. Henson, Judd Apatow and Julia Roberts, have unknowingly fuelled a social media hoax by sharing an incorrect post about who owns images uploaded to the site.

The post — featuring inconsistent fonts and grammatical errors — claims to inform social media users of a “new” Instagram rule that would give the company control over users’ past and future photos and potentially expose them to legal trouble.

The post prompts users to share the text by a deadline to ensure that their personal content is safeguarded from this “new” Instagram rule.

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“Don’t forget tomorrow starts the new Instagram rule where they can use your photos,” the post reads. “It can be used in court cases in litigation against you. Everything you’ve ever posted becomes public from today. Even messages that have been deleted or the photos not allowed. It costs nothing for a simple copy and better… Channel 13 News talked about the change in Instagram’s privacy policy.”

Stephanie Otway, Instagram’s brand communications manager, has come out publicly to shut down the rumour.

“There’s no truth to this post,” she told WWD.

An Instagram hoax went viral after celebrities like Julia Roberts and Judd Apatow shared it.

An Instagram hoax went viral after celebrities like Julia Roberts and Judd Apatow shared it.


U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry was among the list of notable names who shared the post. He has since deleted it.

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Roberts, Apatow, rapper Waka Flocka Flame and actor Josh Brolin have also since deleted their posts. However, screenshots of their posts are still available online.

The post is also still visible on some celebrities’ accounts.

Empire star Henson shared the text, captioning it: “For the record!!! @instagram.”

View this post on Instagram

For the record!!! @instagram

A post shared by taraji p henson (@tarajiphenson) on

Rob Lowe is also on the roster of celebrities who had yet to remove the post from their Instagram feed by Wednesday morning. He captioned the photo: “Word.”

Singer Pink acknowledged that the post might be fake but kept it up on her Instagram feed anyway.

“Better safe than sorry, even if it is a hoax. Sorry for whatever reason anyone would be offended by this. Have a nice day,” she captioned it.

Debra Messing deleted the Instagram hoax, only to repost it later.

Debra Messing deleted the Instagram hoax, only to repost it later.


Will & Grace actor Debra Messing even deleted it once and reposted it, “just in case.”

This isn’t the first time the internet has seen a hoax of this nature.

Back in 2012, a version of the same hoax was shared en masse on Facebook and called out as fake by Snopes, an online source for “discerning what is true and what is total nonsense.”

It resurfaced again in 2016 and 2017 — when it was debunked by Facebook on the platform’s help centre — and even earlier this year, Mashable reports.

“We do not claim ownership of your content, but you grant us a licence to use it,” Instagram’s official terms of use agreement reads.

“Nothing is changing about your rights in your content,” the latest version of the policy, from April 19, 2018, reads.

The entire policy is publicly accessible online.


© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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