Mass Instagram account deletions + the inevitable accompanying hoax

Summary:  Many people had their Instagram accounts disabled today May 23rd. But even more played a game of telephone based off of misinformation and a viral hoax that spread across at least five social platforms with instructions on how to ward off the account deletion happening to you. Based off of social chatter, accounts appear to be getting restored without user-intervention, but it’s happening in waves, and not everybody is restored yet.

As of 11PM 7AM 9AM pacific, May 24, Instagram has yet to make official public statement, though they have privately responded to at least one person.


[update: Instagram spokesperson responded to Buzzfeed privately, assured problem was temporary. Still not clarifying what happened.]

Events as they unfolded (in my mind).

The worst hoaxes are based on a bit of reality.

There’s was/is a bit of chatter on Tumblr, YouTube, Twtter, Facebook, aaaaand Instagram this afternoon/evening about mass-account deletions on Instagram.

Some folks said their account was “disabled,” some said “deleted.”

The inconsistency made me pause. Not that we all have to use the same language, we are all special snowflakes, but computer-generated messages and dialogs are consistent, and when you see them first-hand, you tend to repeat them verbatim.

Plus, freaky they’re-gonna-shut-down-Facebook hoaxes pulse through social platforms with some regularity. 

In other words, I suspected a hoax.

The case for the hoax?

#dontdeletemyaccount (and variations) spread throughout Instagram, and leaked onto Twitter and Tumblr, accompanied by some shady “official” messages.

(screenshot of statigram Instagram SERP for #dontdeletemyaccount below)




Not that you needed to be CSI: Instagram to figure this out.

Tumblr was onto it.


That said, lots of people who complained about getting their Instagram deleted, immediately made new Instagram usernames, with only a few (new) photos.

That’s a lot of work to perpetuate a hoax.


Plus some people weren’t including a call-to-action in their account of getting disabled. (A critical part of hoaxy opportunism.)

And people were making YouTube videos.

I started to think there was some legit issue.



(Bing social SERP result) 






Both MarketingLand and 9to5mac covered the story, but neither had a definitive interpretation of events. We were all going off of social chatter.

[Update: 9to5mac is reporting some users saying they’re accounts have been restored.]

Given that Instagram responded (privately) to somebody from CNBC, it’s certain that there was a legit issue.


I’m sure we can expect all accounts to be restored soon, in addition to an official statement.

In the meantime: