Back to Africa Check

No, sharing disclaimer doesn’t protect against ‘new’ Instagram – or Facebook – rules

Apparently Instagram has changed its rules and can use, share, and publish anything posted to its platform, “even messages that have been deleted”.

That’s according to screenshots shared across social media in August 2019. South African musician Babes Wodumo also posted the message to her official Instagram account on 21 August 2019, warning followers that “tomorrow starts the new Instagram rule where they can use your photos”. 

Wodumo’s post includes a legal disclaimer, with the claim that if it is copied and shared on Instagram, it denies the company the right to use a person’s posts.

Why would these messages still be cropping up on social media a year later? Are they true?

Not true, not new

In the screenshots posted on Instagram, the word “Instagram” is noticeably different to the words around it. It is in a bolder font, and the font size is inconsistent. 

This is probably because a screenshot of a nearly identical message shared across Facebook was edited to replace the word “Facebook” with “Instagram”. But neither are true.

In August 2019 Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, addressed the rumours. The company told US news outlet CBS News there was “no truth to this post”. The platform was not introducing new terms of service, and even if it were, they couldn’t be invalidated by copying and pasting a message.

Wodumo’s post has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times and serves as a good example of how resilient online misinformation can be.

Social media monitoring tool Crowd Tangle revealed a spike in posts sharing nearly identical messages on Facebook in the third week of August 2019 when the message fooled a number of public figures. It also shows identical Facebook posts from as far back as February and March of 2019, but the original is even older.

Fact-checking website Snopes first debunked it in 2012. The same post has been drawing people’s attention to a “deadline today” for over eight years!

The August 2019 peak prompted other organisations to debunk the claim, including Forbes magazine who said: “Here's everything you need to know about this message in four words: It is not real.”

Terms of service even broader

Many people likely shared the post because of its urgent tone, and in order to prevent Facebook from accessing their posts just in case the message was real. But as Snopes in 2012 and Business Insider in 2019 pointed out, Facebook already has access to much more than just users’ posts.

As of August 2020, Facebook’s terms of service say: “Nothing in these Terms takes away the rights you have to your own content.” But by posting it to one of their platforms, including Instagram, a user grants the company certain licences.

These include: “Permission to use your name, profile picture and information about your actions with ads and sponsored content.” And content that you delete may still exist in Facebook’s servers for some time afterwards, and the company still has licence to use and access that content.

The company’s data policy allows it to collect a wealth of other information, from details like the battery level and storage space on your device to information about the wifi networks and other devices nearby.

All of this is agreed to when a user signs up to a platform like Facebook or Instagram. Posting a message can’t invalidate these terms of service. Instead, it might lull users into a false sense of security, and keep hoaxes alive long after they’ve been debunked. – Keegan Leech


Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.

The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.

You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.