I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but this rabbit hole just keeps getting deep.
After exhausting every alternative explanation, we have come to the conclusion that Instagram is deathly afraid of competition. And that they banned the account of our upstart start-up out of that fear that we may infringe on their social app oligopoly.
We started our account in summer 2022 and our handle was @openorigins. We changed our handle to @frankliapp later due to a shift in our marketing focus. There was no immediate problem, our account had steady growth in our niche vertical, and we had engaged followers that were interacting with our content authentically. Some sample photos from our page to show just how uncontroversial our posts were:
But then... we decided to include the phrase “social media app” in our bio *DUH DUH DUHHH*.
The next day, we were perma-banned. No warning, no recourse. Bam.
If you read the screenshot, you might wonder: what is this “business integrity” that we allegedly violated? We wondered the same, so we went through their guidelines (many of which led to dead links, our first sign of how little they care about accountability). Well, the term doesn’t appear anywhere in their community guidelines — they literally made it up.
Clicking on “Disagree With Decision” predictably resulted in no action.
We were sent an automated message from a bot (named ‘Laura’) that our case was being reviewed; any messages sent back to the bot received the same automated reply. It’s been almost a month and our resident bot ‘Laura’ still thinks our case is being reviewed. Weirdly, Instagram has also removed all support email addresses from their website…
We would love to give you a copy of our posts to show you just how loved we were within our community of ~700 followers but we can’t. Instagram even blocked access to our own Ads invoices (that is surely illegal?).
So, we were stuck, unable to access our invoices, ad copy or content. Floating in the purgatory of a social giant's martial law.
Were we being paranoid? Were we just alone in this whole thing?
A Pattern Emerges...
Speaking to others in the space it is clear that we are not alone.
One person who had built an extremely successful and viral social app told us their company account got banned for posting a telegram link in their Instagram bio. Another told us they got banned after they posted content critical of the platform. Several others we spoke to suspect they have been shadow-banned for similar reasons.
The picture that emerges is one of a platform with disdain at its heart. A hatred for competition has left Meta building walls to hold out anyone else who dares make the online world a little more ‘social’.
What this says about Dictatorial platforms
Listen, I would love it if we didn’t rely on Instagram or Facebook. But for millions, these platforms are their online homes and for countless more Instagram is their livelihood. They are as much of a “utility” as electricity or good public transport at this point.
It sounds grandiose but to me, it feels like Instagram is a dogmatic state that can strangle out upstarts at its will. This form of censoring is concerning in a world that relies so heavily on the audiences that live within the platform.
What's the solution?
How Frankli will be different
While the main feature of Frankli (launching January 2023!) is the hard guarantees about the authenticity of the content, we’ve designed Frankli to be as decentralized as far as possible without adversely affecting user experience. We anchor all pieces of content to a permissioned blockchain and facilitate comprehensive offline copies of user profiles. This means our users own their content and are free to make their own frontends if they so choose.
We’ll also be building new features in the open with a public bulletin and development tracker so the community decides how Frankli evolves. We hope that this approach results in control and moderation becoming a community act: one that is shared between a network of unbiased (and economically unaligned) people.
This is the future of social. Democracy over dictatorship.
I moved countries to live in a democracy in my physical world because I want autonomy, why wouldn’t I want to live in one in the digital world as well?
We created a new Instagram account (@frankli_app)… let’s see how long that stays up, shall we?