Celebrities and influencers are fed up with Instagram as it makes sweeping changes to mimic TikTok

Celebrities and influencers are fed up with Instagram as it makes sweeping changes to mimic TikTok
Instagram is doubling down on its commitment to video even as influencers, meme pages, and celebrities have fought back against the changes.Illustration by Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • Some of Instagram's users are speaking out about changes to the platform that mimic TikTok.
  • A group of meme accounts held a protest outside Instagram's offices over the weekend.

A small group of about a dozen protesters showed up outside of Meta's offices on Broadway in New York City on Saturday. Standing in front of the building on a hot and steamy afternoon, they carried signs like "we just want to post" and mocked CEO Mark Zuckerberg. At the end of the protest, several briefly handcuffed themselves to the building as they posed for photos.

The protest's organizers, who run meme pages on Instagram and demanded changes to the company's moderation policies, say they are fed up with the platform. They're not the only ones.

Recent changes to Instagram's main feed that prioritize video features and mimic its rival TikTok have prompted widespread backlash in the past week, adding to a mounting discontent from influencers over a range of issues from how content is moderated to the way creators are left in the dark about shifts in the company's algorithm.

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The photographer Tati Bruening, who has over 321,000 followers on the platform, over the weekend started an online petition called Make Instagram Instagram Again that has reached nearly 200,000 signatures in just 5 days. It calls one the company to scale back its attempts to replicate TikTok and asks it to go back to its "roots" in focusing on photo sharing.

The pushback against the changes appeared to reach crisis levels for Instagram after posts on Monday from Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian, who wield significant influence on the platform with 361 and 326 million Instagram followers, respectively. The famous sisters both shared the same meme to their Instagram story, calling for the platform to "Make Instagram Instagram Again."


Instagram's CEO Adam Mosseri addressed the growing backlash a day after the Jenner and Kardashian posts. In an Instagram video posted on Tuesday, Mosseri promised to listen to users' concerns while indicating the company still intended to push ahead on the planned changes and broader emphasis on video content.

"There's a lot going on on Instagram right now," Mosseri said. "We're experimenting with a number of different changes to the app."

Mosseri called photos part of the platform's "heritage" and said it was committed to continuing to support photo upload, even as users complain about its renewed focus on video.

"I need to be honest," Mosseri said. "I do believe that more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time. We see this even if we change nothing."

"we don't wanna make videos Adam lol," Chrissy Teigen wrote in a tweet to Mosseri on Tuesday.


Creators say Instagram's abrupt changes can have real financial impact

At the demonstration in front of Meta's offices on Saturday, protesters demanded changes to Instagram's moderation practices, which they argued often inappropriately penalized their account for violating guidelines. Meme pages are social-media accounts that grow following by posting memes and other jokes, often with a particular political theme.

Ana, who posts to Instagram as @neoliberalhell, told Insider in an interview days before the protest that she'd have several Instagram accounts removed.

Celebrities and influencers are fed up with Instagram as it makes sweeping changes to mimic TikTok
Ana speaks into a megaphone during a protest outside Meta's offices on Broadway in New York City on July 23, 2022.Connor Perrett/Insider

"It's debilitating because I've used the platform to make money," she said. "I know a lot of people that are creators that use the platform to make money."

Ana also said she believed Instagram censored certain political ideologies, like pro-Palestinian content. Instagram last year said it would change its algorithm after a group of employees had reportedly complained that posts about Palestine were hidden as a result of the platform's algorithm driven moderation, as The Verge reported. The company told the outlet that it was not censoring certain viewpoints but made the change more broadly.

Others have complained about the company's treatment of posts related to abortion following the US Supreme Court's decision to overturn the landmark 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade earlier this year. At least a half a dozen pro-abortion groups reported an uptick in their content moderation following the decision, Insider previously reported. Hashtags related to abortion medication had been hidden by the platform, NBC News reported in June. A company spokesperson said that was due to its "regulated goods'' policy.


Ryan, another event organizer who posts on Instagram as @__antiart__, told Insider prior to the demonstration that he believed smaller Instagram accounts, often run by marginalized communities and people of color, are the one who drive culture on Instagram but are ultimately the accounts that get banned generally.

The protest organizers have been posting about their frustrations on Instagram since the end of June on their @antizuckprotest account, which has more than 2,700 followers.

The demands listed on their account include asking the company to revise its community guidelines so they aren't "purposefully vague," and a more thorough review process for when an account has been suspended or terminated.

"It's a political issue," Ana said. "It's like protecting the rights of creators who use the app to monetize. It's a worker's rights issue for that reason, and it's about this private company having complete control and not having the public have a say in anything."

Instagram's identity crisis and the rise of TikTok

Instagram has in recent years appeared to go through an identity crisis as it tries to compete with a number of emerging platforms that have grown in popularity, especially those that attract a coveted younger user base.


The app in 2016 launched stories to compete with the popular Snapchat feature (nearly every social-media platform, including Twitter, has experimented with the disappearing post format). In 2018, it launched IGTV, which encouraged long-format vertical videos and series. Instagram launched with a separate IGTV app, which Meta discontinued earlier this year months after the product was rebranded as "Instagram Video." It was then combined with the platform's in-feed videos. Videos were first introduced in 2013 around the time the now-defunct video-sharing platform Vine was at the height of its popularity.

Celebrities and influencers are fed up with Instagram as it makes sweeping changes to mimic TikTok
A sign at the July 23, 2022, New York City protest read "IN SOLIDARITY WITH MY FALLEN OOMFS."Connor Perrett/Insider

Instagram in late 2020 unveiled its latest video platform, "Reels," which seemed to be the company's response to TikTok's meteoric rise to popularity. The product is largely identical and involves short videos that rely on an in-app catalog of sounds.

Insider's Tanya Chen in May reported that travel influencers known for sharing photos said their reach on the platform dropped by as much as half as Instagram continued to push creators toward video. Some creators who spoke to Insider said their engagement numbers returned closer to normal once they started making videos. Some food business owners complained that the platform's shift to promote videos has cost them engagement and sales, the New York Times reported in March.

Some users have complained that the in-app feed has recently been flooded with Reels and bombarded with posts of accounts they do not follow as part of Instagram's updated recommendation algorithm.

In Mosseri's Tuesday address, the Instagram CEO said the company would continue to make improvements to the algorithm, which can be paused entirely for up to a month in their current iteration.


Others have complained about an ongoing test that makes users scroll through the feed one post at a time rather than on a continuous feed, as has been standard on the platform since its invention in 2010. It is yet another change that brings Instagram's user experience closer to that of TikTok.

Mosseri in his video that addressed user concerns said the new feed was part of a test impacting a "few percentage" of Instagram users. "It's not yet good," he said, "and we're going to have to get it to a good place if we're going to ship it to the rest of the Instagram community."

Sydney Bradley contributed to this report.