Why Getting Instagram Deleted Inspired A Push for Change
On Wednesday, August, 1 around 6:30 PM I logged in to find something no content creator wants to find — their cannabis Instagram deleted. A wave of emotions washed over me from extreme sadness to the ultimate rage. After taking more dabs than I could count, I knew tears wouldn’t fix this fiasco, so I took action to get my account reinstated.
My Account is Down, What Next?
First, I let people know of the deactivation. With multiple campaigns this month, I couldn’t afford a moment of downtime. I shared Instagram’s notification on my personal account, Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn.
Six degrees of separation is real. I tapped contacts with inside connections to Facebook-owned Instagram. A girlfriend who works at Facebook filed an appeal on my behalf. Another industry colleague utilized connections through his agency, who discovered coordinated and repeated page reports led to a targeted takedown of my page. I even emailed an Instagram employee directly, who previously helped a friend get his page verified. I. TRIED. IT. ALL.
Next, I logged into my backup account @cannabess. It’s a page I made shortly after the creation of @imcannabess in 2016, with the hopes of never needing to use it. Luckily I remembered the email connected to my backup and shortly after, began promoting my new page.
As I tried logging into my backup account, I realized Instagram not only deactivated my main page, they froze access to all my other accounts as well. After repeated attempts on mobile, as well as a VPN, I eventually caved and restored both my devices to factory settings. One reset without a hitch, while the other device fell victim to Retrograde and resulted in a two-hour Apple Store visit.
While it’s great to have connections, I couldn’t rely on them completely. If you’ve been wrongfully deleted, Instagram offers two options for appeal — a personal appeal and a business appeal. I started with the business appeal, as it required less writing and more proof. At least ten times a day I filled out this form, sending Instagram my business license and proof of domain ownership. I only filled out one personal appeal, to which Instagram replied asking for a photo of myself with my username and a specific numeric code.
The Tipping Point
I assumed business appeals would lend more success. However, a fellow influencer without a business license said his account came back after multiple personal appeals. “I have enough I could probably make a collage,” he said. “Don’t give up.”
So I didn’t.
On Sunday night, after several bowls and a couple more business appeals, I decided to file one more personal appeal. I sat at my computer with writers block. Why should my account be reinstated? How do I convince one Instagram employee with all the power, to reactivate my account?
Then it hit me. I don’t need to use my words, I need to use the words of the cannabis community. In my first post after being deleted I asked the cannabis community to tell Instagram why my account should be reinstated. I received hundreds of comments in support, so started to copy and paste. Below is the appeal I believe led to the reactivation of my account:
I am a photographer, educator and activist in Washington State. My account has been wrongfully targeted and I ask you to please reconsider deactivating my page. Here’s what industry peers said upon the removal of my account:
“The most frustrating thing for me as your follower and a user of Instagram is the fact you spread so much positivity and happiness, while I’ve definitely seen other content from other users on Instagram that I believe to be inappropriate for social media.”
“@instagram you need to realize that cannabis accounts are powerful and important for this community. We don’t sell. We don’t use this in illegal states. We are all grown adults ad legal residents of states that allow cannabis use. It’s a shame that someone who advocates for change and awareness got punished for an algorithm issue. I hope all of you reinstate @imcannabess as she brings a lot to this platform.”
“You go girl! Crossing my fingers that @instagram does the right thing. #bringimcannabessback”
“I’ve learned so much from @imcannabess following her page. She is so rad!! @instagram – bring her 90K page back so she can continue to educate.”
“We’re incredibly disappointed in @instagram for deleting your account. This happens to far too many cannabis influencers. We are big fans of your work; fingers crossed you’re able to retrieve @imcannabess soon!”
“You are a living demonstration of how strong this entire movement is. We will not be censored or stopped. Keep your head up.”
“Honestly, you were my very first person I followed. I seen a post about you on Reddit, and started following you on IG. Now I’m on IG lots, and really your the reason. So thanks for that, I love your posts and what you do, and look forward to more in the future.”
“This is insane to read, especially having just lost my advocacy account… These words are so empowering though, they completely resonate with me, about just coming back stronger to educate more, to bring more fire content; it’s sad that there are so many bullies out there putting in that much effort, and even sadder that @instagram lets them.”
“Hey @instagram, do the right thing and reinstate her account.”
“We are on your side! You have been one of the most influential people in our community! You have always showed your passion respectfully. You are a true professional and you work is admired by many! Let’s go Instagram! There are plenty of other accounts that should be gone! Not this one!!!”
“Facebook was JUST found to have allowed Neo Nazis to operate like legit businesses on Facebook AND IG for years. But Zuckerberg wants to censor a plant!? This country is so messed up.”
“@instagram you’re on the wrong side here. Give this woman her account.”
“So fucked. Whether Instagram realizes their mistake or not, your content will continue to inspire.”
“I have been following you for years and I have ALWAYS learned from, or been inspired by you and your content. Thank you for making another account.”
“You always put out positive and high quality content.”
“They should’ve at least given users the change to change or delete certain posts before completely taking down and deactivating accounts. People have put so much time and effort into building @instagram.”
“I believe there should be a discussion between Insta and its users about what makes a post worthy of being reported and why is it considered a violation to begin with.”
“@instagram better get your shit together. Myself and MANY others are about to leave ya crusty ass for doing some dumb shit like this…”
“Oh no!!! At least you have a loyal following! We’ll get you back up there! Hope the main account gets reinstated!!!!”
I filmed a video of the appeal for my story, hit submit and went to bed shortly after. If it weren’t for video proof, I probably would’ve forgot about the appeal. Like I said, I smoked several bowls!
Instagram Deleted My Account By Accident?
I woke up Monday morning to “A Message from Instagram.” My heart started pounding and my palms broke a sweat. This could be the make or break of my account. I read the email slowly. It said:
“It looks like your account was disabled by mistake. Your account has been reactivated, and you should now be able to log in. We’re sorry for any inconvenience.
If you have any issues getting back into your account, please let us know.
The Instagram Team”
After a couple deep breaths, an Instagram Live and a bong toke, I thought, “What in the actual fuck?” Instagram, you deactivate my content, my community and my voice for two weeks and all you can say is “disabled by mistake”!? What does that even mean? What triggered this mistake? Can you clarify so it doesn’t happen again?
During the course of my ordeal, I went from sad, to mad to mad inspired. Seeing my page reactivated gave me hope. Now is the time to push for change and make our community’s voice heard.
What’s Next After Having Instagram Deleted
About a week into my takedown, in the midst of tears and stress, I realized I don’t want anyone else to experience what I’ve gone through. I know hundreds of companies targeted by Instagram’s unjust removal of accounts. Even worse, often times these companies receive zero communication about what flagged their page. This needs to change.
I am starting a petition demanding Instagram update their Terms of Service. Respect our community. Stop targeting legal producers, processors, retailers, accessories lines and influencers. Cannabis is medical or recreational in over 30 US states and is soon to be recreational in Canada. We want to play by the social giant’s rules. It Is unacceptable a billion dollar tech company cannot issue a statement explaining what is and is not appropriate cannabis content on their platform.
Next, I want to show Instagram how much engagement our community brings to their platform. I am coordinating #CannabisBlackoutDay on October 6, Instagram’s founding date. I ask all cannabis companies, influencers and supporters of this plant to please refrain from using the app entirely. That’s right, no posts, no stories, no comments and no DM’s. We want Instagram to see the drop in engagement if our community left their app. So mark your calendars for October 6, because we’re blacking out the ‘Gram!
Why I Love the Cannabis Community
Before I go any further, I want to thank the cannabis community. I wouldn’t be back without your shares, support, appeals and positive energy. After having my account deactivated I felt like Black Mirror Season 3, Episode 1. I started to question my career, my work and if it was all worth it. At one point I felt so depressed, I even looked for marketing jobs at Microsoft (which sounded boring AF so scratch that)!
I felt the deactivation connected me even more with this powerful community. I’ve always used my platform to share content and have fun, but didn’t realize how many people felt inspired to start pages after seeing mine. Heck, even writing about this brings me to tears. I truly believe we are in this together. The more people normalize cannabis, whether it’s through photography, writing, art, etc., the sooner legalization happens.
Think how our community has advanced legislation since Instagram’s founding in 2010. We still have a ways to go, but the tsunami of change is coming. Now it’s my time to give back. It’s time to push for change at Instagram, and hopefully companies like Facebook and YouTube will follow suit. Let’s make our voices heard today, tomorrow, October 6 and every day, because together we grow!
Deactivation and Reactivation Updates
08.26.2018 Update: Instagram deactivated my account again without warning or explanation. Fed up, I wanted to take action. I’ve started a #PetitionToInstagram to help make the cannabis community’s voice heard. If you agree Instagram needs to update their Terms of Service to respect the cannabis community, click here!
09.01.2018 Update: Instagram reactivated @imcannabess, sending the same email I received above.
09.19.2018 Update: I’m currently in Cabo and woke up from a nap to find my account deactivated A THIRD time.
09.21.2018 Update: Instagram reactivated @imcannabess a third time, sending the same email received above. Every time my account is reactivated I ask for an explanation but they never reply.
10.13.2018 Update: Instagram has deactivated my account a fourth time. This time, they’ve also frozen my phone from accessing any other IG accounts I currently manage.
10.26.2018 Update: Instagram just took down my agency page @BlaiseCreative.
10.30.2018 Update: Aaaaaannnnndddd @BlaiseCreative is back.
11.3.2018 Update: @imcannabess is back a fourth time!
11.4.2018 Update: Less than 24 hours later, @imcannabess is deactivated a fifth time making it more and more apparent my page is being targeted.
11.15.2018 Update: Around 10PM I FaceTimed with my friend @LizardFritz. She asked if I thought my page could be gone for good. I said “no way, it’s still out there.” Shortly after we hung up. I logged into my personal account @BessByers and watched the @imcannabess link in bio turn from black to blue.
11.16.2018 Update: My page has been deactivated a sixth time. THIS. IS. INSANE.
11.24.2018 6:27 PM Update: My page has been reactivated a sixth time!!
11.24.2018 10:30 PM Update: I just got home from Apple Cup to find my page deactivated a SEVENTH time.
12.16.2018 11:54 AM Update: I’m kicking it in San Francisco with Lizzy and Cozzi, only to realize my page is back a seventh time. I switch my profile from business to personal and make my page private. I never announce my page is back, post to it or even log in from my IP in Seattle. Hoping this will stop the repeated deactivations of my account.
12.18.2018 7:55 AM Update: Nope, it didn’t. My page is down an eighth time.
1.9.2018 Update: I received an email from Instagram at 4:50 AM. This messaged varied from the one received the previous seven times. It said, “You may have recently had trouble accessing your Instagram account. We’re sorry for the inconvenience, and you should be able to log in now. The issue we were having hasn’t affected your photos.” I am back an EIGHTH time!
1.16.2018 Update: I woke up this morning to Instagram’s old reactivation email. Apparently my account went down a NINTH time, then came back, without even noticing!