Dozens of celebrities and likely thousands of users are sharing a version of an Instagram post that falsely claims the platform will “disclose, copy, and distribute” their information after an unspecified time “tomorrow.”
“All members must post a note like this,” the post falsely claims. “Instagram DOES NOT HAVE PERMISSION TO SHARE PHOTOS OR MESSAGES.”
“There’s no truth to this post,” Stephanie Otway, a Facebook company spokesperson, said in an email.
Nearly identical versions of this hoax have gone viral on Facebook both in 2015 and in 2012. In fact, it appears that several versions of the image circulating crudely edited out the word “Facebook” and replaced it with “Instagram.”
However, as pointed out in a tweet thread by reporter Taylor Lorenz, dozens of celebrities have fallen for the hoax. Most of the celebrities identified by Lorenz, such as Judd Apatow, Julianne Moore, Julia Roberts, Tina Knowles (Beyoncé’s mom), and Wacka Flocka Flame have since deleted their post. But several other celebrities like Usher, Debra Messing (on her story), Taraji P. Henson, and Rita Wilson still have their post active at the time of writing.
Former Texas governor and current Secretary of Energy Rick Perry also fell for the hoax. He deleted his post while this post was being written.
There’s a reason why routine hoaxes like this have resonant power: people don’t generally know how the platforms that they use actually work, and how they share their information. As early as 1999, chain emails have falsely claimed that Microsoft founder Bill Gates was giving away free money to people who shared the post.
The average person today generally has no idea how Instagram uses their data. Platform privacy policies, including Instagram’s, are generally long. They also tend to be written in hard-to-parse legal language, and most people just decide not to read it.
Most versions of the hoax, including versions that went viral on Facebook both in 2015 and in 2012, cite the same fictional statute: Uniform Commercial Code 1-308-11308-103. To be clear, UCC 1-308 does exists; the 11308-103 is extraneous. The statute says that people have to provide services in they way they’ve been described and promised. This law has jurisdiction in the United States.