Instagram Founder's Instagram Locked When One Person Convinced Instagram He Had Died

from the i-feel-happyyyyy dept

We have talked a long, long time about how the concept of content moderation at the kind of scale of the largest internet and social media platforms is essentially impossible. But it's not just content moderation that is proving difficult for those platforms. Policing those platforms for anything that relies on user-based input is difficult as well. For instance, Instagram recently found out that its process for locking up the accounts of the deceased may need some work, as one person was able to get Instagram founder Adam Mosseri's Instagram account locked.

Mosseri’s Instagram account was locked because of Instagram’s memorialization feature, where users can report to the company that an Instagram account holder has died. In response, Instagram will block anyone from logging into the account, and stop the ability to make any changes to already uploaded content.

“I find it ridiculous how Instagram lets such things even happen on their platform in the first place,” the scammer who claimed responsibility for the lock on Mosseri’s account, and who used the handle Syenrai, told Motherboard in an online chat. “The entire banning community needs to be discovered and reported to Instagram so they can put an end to this—it’s basically the dark side of Instagram.”

So, what is that memorialization feature? Well, an email goes into Instagram's team to trigger the account change. Instagram then requests proof that the person in question is now deceased. That admittedly morbid request takes the form of a request for either a death certificate or obituary. While that seems reasonable, it should be obvious where the flaw in this system is.

“I have a method which is as simple as finding an online obituary of a person who recently passed away,” they explained. “I then submit a memorialize request for the victim’s account using the random obituary I found, and it takes 1-2 days for support to process.”

“As long as the obituary is recent (within same week) the target will be memorialized,” Syenrai said. “It works 98% of the time.”

While, sure, it's fairly funny to see Instagram lock up and memorialize the account for its own boss, who is very much alive, this all becomes less funny when you understand how this goes for the average, every day user of Instagram. It's also worth noting that this is one of many vulnerabilities that nefarious actors use to harass targets on Instagram.

As for the memorialization process specifically, Instagram's comments have all been canned-style responses indicating that big platforms occasionally have tools like this abused and that Instagram has hires "investigators and cybersecurity specialists" to keep nefarious actors at bay. But it's obviously not working. That Mosseri's account was locked down pretty much proves that.

If the head of Instagram can fall victim to this, what hope is there for the rest of Instagram's usership?

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Filed Under: adam mosseri, content moderation, memorial
Companies: instagram


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2021 @ 1:50pm

    “I find it ridiculous how Instagram lets such things even happen on their platform in the first place,” the scammer who claimed responsibility for the lock on Mosseri’s account, and who used the handle Syenrai, told Motherboard in an online chat. “The entire banning community needs to be discovered and reported to Instagram so they can put an end to this—it’s basically the dark side of Instagram.”

    So, turn yourself in, and anyone else you know in the business, and knock it the fuck off?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2021 @ 9:59am

      Re:

      What is this, security based on the honor system? "Knock it off" doesn't close a vulnerability, facebook has to fix its broken moderation system and this guy is demonstrating why. You should not be able to lock someone else's account just by claiming the owner is dead.
      Even if this were exclusively used in cases where the owner actually is dead, with no malicious intent ever being applied (an incredibly naive if), this is a bad thing. Who says I want my account to be locked when I die? Maybe I want the people I leave behind to have access to it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TaboToka (profile), 19 Nov 2021 @ 2:08pm

    Sounds like you have little choice

    I guess at that point you have to make a new account and copy over all your content, eh?

    You can't copy over your followers, but is there a way to see them? If so, you could spend your days messaging them about your new account, maybe.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Nov 2021 @ 2:35pm

    No one would EVER misuse this feature & making them submit documentation makes it impossible for them to fool us.

    First thing we do is lock the account & block all access...
    Because if someone tells us the person is dead, they would never attempt to login and tell us we were wrong or anything.
    And we definitely shouldn't reach out to the registered email with a note of condolence, which would make the average person respond with WTF are you talking about I'm alive you idiots.

    Does silicon valley make people stupid?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2021 @ 3:37pm

      Re:

      i think it's the actual silicon deficiency that has something to do with it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sumgai (profile), 19 Nov 2021 @ 9:25pm

      Re:

      Does silicon valley make people stupid?

      No, code monkeys are just naturally stupid, they don't need any help or encouragement.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Nov 2021 @ 5:42am

        Re: Re:

        I'm thinking its just a bright shiny example of those who believe they are smarter than everyone else.
        No one would ever do this, so we need not think about it.
        People are not malicious assholes, so we need not prepare.
        Telling people we take their privacy seriously IS a valid defense plan.

        I mean it is technically impossible to prepare for every possible vector but ROT13 isn't actually encryption of customer data.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Max, 19 Nov 2021 @ 2:45pm

    Bah, humbug!

    Step one: don't bother using Instagram. It's really not hard, after one mastered never having had either a Twitter or Facebook account...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2021 @ 3:21pm

      Re: Bah, humbug!

      You could've ended your comment at "Bah, humbug!" rather than typing it out again with so many extra words.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2021 @ 3:42pm

        Re: Re: Bah, humbug!

        If he'd done that, the message of "don't use Instagram!" would likely have been lost.

        Really. Don't use Instagram. It's not hard.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2021 @ 2:50pm

    He's right. It is absolutely ridiculous that a business would even theoretically think of locking up someone's account on the say of a random email from an unverified source.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2021 @ 3:13pm

      Re:

      How else will they find out, unless you tell them who your next of kin is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2021 @ 3:36pm

        Re: Re:

        Verification.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2021 @ 5:22pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Easy to say, but hard to do, unless you want to have your anonymity online completely removed, as verification starts with identifying the user. The person dealing with your estate may not have accounts with the same social media services, or live in the same town, so a random email is a likely notification. Also, people frequently share names, and/or the name on the account may be different from the name on the death certificate.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2021 @ 4:02am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            An anonymous account is identified by a username and password (and possibly some system of 2-factor authentication). Anyone not in possession of those shouldn't be able to do jack to it.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2021 @ 5:22am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Unless you give someone else your password, one password breach latter and your loved ones can no longer see your photos, and you not around to do anything about it.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 19 Nov 2021 @ 4:17pm

    The ironing is delicious

    Considering that Facebook owns Instagram, "Instagram[a] is an American photo and video sharing social networking service founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. In April 2012, Facebook Inc. acquired the service for approximately US$1 billion in cash and stock." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instagram, then this previous Techdirt article is so timely ..................

    "In another move from the playbook, Facebook was rebranded as Meta. Since Meta means Dead in Hebrew (to the world’s amusement), I will refer to Facebook as Facebook for the time being.", https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20211118/16382947969/techlash-20-next-gen-techlash-is-bigger-stron ger-faster.shtml

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 21 Nov 2021 @ 4:25am

    And seeing as you mentioned it

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Lostinlodos (profile), 21 Nov 2021 @ 1:08pm

    The movie: real life

    Lol.

    Unfriended.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 22 Nov 2021 @ 7:53am

    Why?

    Why disable the account at all? Maybe the next of kin has access to it, and wants to post something. If the account holder took the password to the grave, then nobody will be able to log in anyway so why bother disabling the account?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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