Trend Alert: #freethememes

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In late July, owners of more than 100 of the most popular meme accounts on Instagram opened the app to discover their pages had been deleted. The only reason they were given was that they had violated the company’s terms, with no specific explanation of what they did wrong, and they weren’t given the option to query or challenge the decision.

According to the Daily Dot, one reason for pages being deleted was that their owners had broken Instagram’s rules against the "selling and purchasing of usernames, as well as alleged attempts to fraudulently obtain others' usernames." This seems to refer to the tactic of SIM swapping, a trend we covered earlier this year. Some commenters speculated the accounts may have been deactivated for using others’ content without credit.

For the owners, the deletion means a loss of income, as they made money from sponsored posts, in addition to the loss of years of hard work and community-building. One 17-year-old account owner revealed he had been earning $200,000 a year prior to the purge. The deleted pages had millions of followers, so their removal from the platform has upset not just their owners, but the meme community.

Memers got together to organise a mass “raid,” led by a page (which has also now vanished) called @worlds_largest_raid. The post announcing the raid, planned for 10th August, got over 240,000 likes. On the day, they spammed Instagram’s own @Instagram account with comments featuring the hashtags #freethememes and #freethememepages.

The raid hasn’t resulted in the lost accounts being reinstated, but it will undoubtedly have caught Instagram’s attention, and perhaps made them review how they deal with the meme community in future. The company recently announced they’d be hiring a partnerships manager to focus on relationships with meme accounts and Instagram-based publishers.

This isn’t the first time memers have banded together to make their views heard. Back in April, a group of Instagrammers started collecting applications for an IG Meme Union. They may have been inspired by the YouTubers Union, which was officially recognised by Europe’s largest trade union IG Metall. As content creation becomes a full time job and key income source for a growing number of young people, there will be increasing demand for their voices to be heard and their rights to be recognised.

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