Why you will regret putting your creative works on Instagram, Linkedin, Facebook, etc

Published 2019-08-15 on Anjan's Homepage

content protection xkcd

Source: xkcd.com

License: Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.5)

I often have friends recommend me their art pages or creative works that solely exist on the corporate social media websites:

If you care about discoverability and long term viability of your online presence, creating your own website is better in every way.

The common criticism against creating your own website is that it’s a lot of work for something that these corporate platforms provide for free. Creating your own website is like buying a house, using corporate social media is like renting. Like house ownership gives you autonomy in your life, owning your own webspace gives you creative freedom.


Instagram’s terms of service states: by uploading your art to instagram, “you hereby grant to us a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content (consistent with your privacy and application settings).”

Instagram says you may revoke this license by deleting your content but if someone shares the content, the license is not revoked. If your instagram post is even marginally popular, instagram will own your content forever. They are free to profit, appropriate, and perverse your ideas without paying you anything or crediting you. Unfortunately, most other corporate social media websites have a similar clause in their terms of service.

For a list of other corporate social media websites and issues buried in their terms of service in brief/plain English, see: tosdr. tosdr also has a browser add-on!

Edit 2020-04-21: For proof you don’t own anything you post on instagram see: Court Rules Photographer Gave Up Exclusive Licensing Rights by Posting on Instagram

Shadow banning

Shadow banning (also called stealth banning, ghost banning or comment ghosting[1]) is the act of blocking or partially blocking a user or their content from an online community such that it will not be readily apparent to the user that they have been banned.

Shadow banning - Wikipedia

Contrary to popular belief, shadow banning is not reserved for people testing the limits of our free speech. It’s problematic for YOU if you value your discoverability and creative freedom.

For example, YouTube is known to completely change their algorithm overnight without giving a public statement. The subfeed used to show followers the newest content from creators they had subscribed to in chronological order. Today, the subfeed is “curated” by machine learning algorithms to maximize watch time, which in turn increases ad exposure, and profits for YouTube. Less popular and begnin content is snubbed for more popular content because it’s not profitable to show your followers content they have specifically asked for. When you use corporatist social media, whether or not the content you create is shown to your followers is dependant on an ever-changing business plan.

Rather than creating content that is engaging, new and different, many content creators are distracted by the prospect of trying to figure out the algorithm and game it. As a result, Youtube has turned into a sanitized husk of what it used to be.


The internet was created with decentralization and individual ownership in mind to prevent these and other abuses. Everyone doesn’t need to be crammed into a single platform. Unfortunately, corportations found a way to provide some short term conveniences and the general public did not think about the long term problems associated with a centralized internet.

When most people look you up on the internet, they usually do not search your name on each platform individually like LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. because that would take forever. They will likely use a search engine. As long as you do SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on your own website, you will have just as good, if not better discoverability than displaying your content on a corporate social media website.

You do not need to exist on a platform to exist on the internet. There are software developers that understand the importance of a decentralized internet and have created technical tools to allow non-technical people to take advantage of this decentralization. The small effort required to set up a website worth the value of retaining ownership of your content. You should at least create a website and promote it alongside your twitter/facebook/etc, if not escape the legal grasp of corporate social media altogether.

Furthermore, since these replacements are free and open, they will outlive any proprietary social networking app. Compare how long any new proprietary instant messaging app (AIM, MSN messenger, etc.) has lived when compared to email-a free and open internet technology.

Below are some tools and services you might want to use to distribute your content:

To get unbiased updates from multiple websites in chronological order in one window (aka “follow” your favorite content creators):

To get your own domain name and email address (like mine: anjan -at- momi.ca): gandi domain registrar

For creating your website, I can recommend WordPress or ghost. Gandi offers a one-click install for Wordpress. If you are more technically inclined, look at jekyll and GitHub pages (it’s free!). Stay away from wix, dreamweaver, etc.

If RSS is too much and you would not like to create your own website, there are social media-like services that still retain your freedom. Consider the alternatives listed here: switching.software

How do you know these replacements are better and won’t be bought out?

Most of the alternatives listed on here are technologically and legally structured in a way that means they cannot be bought or sold.

The social networks listed are federated, which means there is no single site to buy, just thousands of independent sites linked together. Even if a particular site is sold, its users can move to another independent site on the same network. It would be virtually impossible for anyone to take control of the network as a whole.

On top of all this, the software used is released under perpetual free open licences that make it legally impossible for it to be purchased.

Source: switching.software

License: Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike 4.0

I recommend you read what federated and a perpetual free open licences means on the switching.software website. You should be distrustful of any social media service on the internet that is not federated and licensed under a perpetual free open license.

Click here for a list of centralized proprietary services that disappeared overnight

tl;dr: Don’t build your livelihood on someone else’s lawn.

If you know of other abuses that are a consequence of a centralized internet, please let me know. A whole other can of worms: consumers of a certain platform may not even be aware of content outside and are at the mercy of that platform for true news/facts.

guest editor: Colin Leitner http://www3.telus.net/colinl333

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