Following spam attack, Instagram ignores requests to fix broken features [updated]

By , Oct 16, 2013

hashtag

Do you remember the Instagram smoothie spam attack that happened a few months ago? For those of you that are not aware of the situation, let me give you a brief history. On July 27 of this year, many users found out their account had been hacked into, and pictures of smoothies and juices with a link to some scam site disguised as the BBC were posted from those hacked accounts

Although Instagram never actually explained what happened that day, the company quickly took “actions to secure the accounts involved, and the posted photos are being deleted.”

I was one of these people affected by the attack. I actually noticed my account had been hacked well before Instagram reacted. I did all I could do at the time, which was changing my password and making sure my account was not tied to any third party applications.

Since that day, I was never able to use Instagram to its full capabilities, and although I have emailed support several times clearly explaining my issue, I never heard back from them…

What happened?

As mentioned above, I actually noticed that my account had been hacked early on, just minutes after the spam photo was posted without my consent. I quickly deleted the spam photo that had been posted to my account, I fixed my altered profile description, changed my password and made sure that my account was not tied to any third party application that could have let hackers in.

Later that day, Instagram said they had deleted the spam photos from accounts that had been hacked, and that it had sent hacked users a request to change their passwords. Because I had done all of that before Instagram was probably even aware of the situation, the company didn’t have to do anything with my account. They never deleted anything from my account, neither did I ever receive an email prompting me to change my password.

The symptoms

I realized soon after the attack that the use of hashtags in my photos was not working properly. I could add a hashtag to a photo of mine, but when I tapped on the tag to see the stream of photos in that feed, my photos were nowhere to be found. Of course, I tried with various hashtags. None of my photos would be displayed in the feeds. If you want to see an example, look at this photo I recently published on Instagram, tagged with #PleaseFixMyHashtags. The hashtag is there, but if you tap on it, it doesn’t show in the tag feed.

I also looked at my photos taken before the smoothie attack. Tagged photos were showing up in the tags feeds, as they were supposed to. That’s when I actually connected the dots and realized the problem had started when my account got hacked, on July 27.

A possible explanation?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this for the past three months and I came up with a possible explanation of the problem. I believe that when my account was hacked to send photos of a smoothie with spam links, several of my followers probably reported the photo and my account as spam. This probably triggered some kind of filter that now makes it impossible for my photos to show in their respective tag feeds. In short, this filter would be a way for Instagram to block spammers from spamming tag feeds.

I also believe that if I had not done anything about it and let Instagram delete the photos and prompt me to change my password, I wouldn’t have encountered any issue. To sum things up, I believe that taking action so early to fix my hacked account ended up being the source of the issue. Instead of having my account labeled as “hacked into,” my account was probably labeled as “this guys is a spammer,” simply because I took care of things before Instagram was aware of the problem.

A widespread issue

I started looking online and found dozens of cases similar to mine. In some cases, people were able to pinpoint the problem to the smoothie attack, just like I was. You can see similar complaints to mine here, here, here, here, here, and here. In most cases, similar complaints started appearing after the July 27 smoothie attack, and those that reported the problem to Instagram never heard back from the company.

iDB reader Colleen has the same problem. In a comment on iDB, he says:

Ever since my account was hacked by this fruit thing, my hashtags haven’t worked. For 2 months I’ve emailed Instagram about this ongoing problem, and every single one has been ignored. Please have Instagram acknowledge and follow up with this problem.

Clearly, I am not the only one having this issue. It’s also safe to assume that many more users are affected by this problem and probably haven’t even noticed, or don’t care enough to report it.

No word from Instagram

Of course I checked Instagram Help Center, which doesn’t provide any information at all about this issue. I also contacted Instagram support via the app’s contact form and also via the desktop version of their Help Center. After several emails sent over the course of the last 3 months, I have yet to hear from the company.

At this point, I’m not sure what’s most frustrating: the fact that my hashtags are useless, or the fact that Instagram, the social network I enjoy the most, is ignoring support requests from its users?

I am not a heavy hashtag user, but I do enjoy tagging some of my pictures when appropriate. Not being able to use hashtags has also prevented me from entering photo contests or the Weekend Hashtag Projects the company holds on Instagram every week. As someone who likes things to “just work the way they should,” this is frustrating.

At this point, I would like Instagram to acknowledge the issue and take action to fix it. I usually take to Twitter when I want to rant about something, but given the situation, I thought I’d put it out there on iDB for the world to see. I’m hoping that it may help get the attention of someone at Instagram, since the multiple support request emails I sent them didn’t seem to do much to help my cause and the one of dozens of users.

If you’re unfortunately in the same situation, please feel free to leave a comment and share your experience.

UPDATE: Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger took the time to leave a comment below and tell me that my account has now been fixed and the company is looking into other accounts that were affected:

Hi Sebastien, Mike (co-founder of Instagram) here. Your account should now be working normally, and we’re taking a look to see which other accounts are affected.

Thank you to my guardian angel at Facebook who got things back in order for me. Now let’s hope everybody who has encountered this issue will be taken care of.

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  • Stefano ‘Graziani’ Polo

    this all makes sense now. Around that time, whenever I tried posting a photo, I was kicked out of Instagram and asked to change my password. This happened 4 or 5 times until I gave up on Instagram all together. I even re-installed the application. I thought for some reason they had my account down as a bad account but when I noticed my profile information had changed, I thought something was phishy….pun intended.

  • on3simpleclick

    How could anyone expect a company to keep track of millions of users? They don’t.
    Instagram doesn’t give a shit about it’s users. Your just a number.

    • Stefano ‘Graziani’ Polo

      they know which accounts got hacked and could have simply sent us a message of some sort letting us know what happened. I had no idea what happened to my account and I just gave up on it because I was tired of resetting my password

      • James

        pick a stronger password?

      • Stefano ‘Graziani’ Polo

        The attack has nothing to do with the strength of your password

      • James

        How do you know this? How could they gain access to your account without knowing your password? How could they know your password if it’s “strong”?

      • Stefano ‘Graziani’ Polo

        A spam attack link can steal your password regardless of what the password is.

      • James

        I’m trying to follow you here, but I still don’t get it. So this attack started because you tapped on a link? Even if that’s the case, I don’t see how it could get your password.

  • Hermès Vainstar Chu

    since facebook brought them they no longer care about the users

  • Riley Freeman

    I didn’t get hacked and I don’t have this problem but if there is one thing that has always been clear about Instagram is that they don’t give a shit about their users. They became the most popular social networking site maybe not by numbers but ask any teen to 30 year old and it’s likely the only social networking site they care about.

    They delete accounts without warning and have vague rules and never tell you what’s wrong. Send them an email for anything and you will likely never get a response. They made their money and clearly don’t give a shit. I love the site but I have zero respect for them and the lack of service they provide.

    • ✪ aidan harris ✪

      “they don’t give a shit about their users”

      I’m pretty sure that’s Facebooks fault. I don’t use Instagram but as an observer can clearly see that Instagram has been going down hill ever since their Facebook takeover…

      • Riley Freeman

        Naw they were the same way prior to Facebook buying them

  • Cyril

    Umm the hashtags thing has nothing to do with the ‘smoothie attack’. Just add the hashtags in the comment section and not in the pic caption. Then they’ll show up in the hashtag ‘feed’. Cheers!

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      Mm. yeah, I tried that about 100 times. I didn’t spend an hour writing this post without having tried every possible solution before. The “hashtag thing” as you call it has everything to do with the smoothie attack as it is exactly when it started for me and other users.

  • ExRoot

    All I know is I cannot post videos to INstargram without it crashing. Even tyried reinstalling. Perhaps its my JB.

    • Riley Freeman

      I’m jail broken and don’t have that problem.

  • chumawumba

    Instagram used to care.. before facebook bought it

  • NEWYORKMINUTE10

    “As someone who likes things to “just work the way they should,” this is frustrating.”
    It’s working the way it should

  • Mike Krieger

    Hi Sebastien, Mike (co-founder of Instagram) here. Your account should now be working normally, and we’re taking a look to see which other accounts are affected.

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      Hi Mike,

      Thank you very much for fixing my account. I really appreciate it. I hope your team can also fix other affected accounts.

      Thanks again :)

      • Yasmeen Borum-Moore

        Can someone be of assistance to me? I haven’t been able to like any pics, leave comments, write captions on my pics or follow people. I have the iPhone 5c and
        Not getting an error message the likes and comments just disappear!!!! Any suggestions people please help!

      • Melanie Barcena

        Have you had a reply to this yet? I’m having the same problem and have had the problem for a few months now =/

      • Yasmeen Borum-Moore

        Hi Melanie no response yet, this is crazy

    • Jonathan

      Hey Mike, I have a quick question for you. Not sure if it’s a bug or not. I have an iPod 5 on iOS 7.0.2 and when I open Instagram to check my updates on who liked what and so forth, sometimes it doesn’t load, so I have to refresh it manually, and sometimes when it does finally load, I can’t scroll. It just shows me what is present on my screen. After a couple more refreshes and maybe 30 seconds of waiting, I can scroll and view the rest.
      Thoughts?

      • Mike Krieger

        hey Jonathan, is this a recent issue? Did it get worse with iOS7? Thanks

      • Jonathan

        It mainly started when I first installed beta 1. I was expecting some bugs, so I let it slip by. But, even after the the final version of iOS 7 was released, and Instagram released their update for the new iOS, the problem still persisted.
        Thanks. :)

    • Colleen

      Thanks for finally fixing this months-long problem, Mike! I have a few questions I hope you can answer:

      1. When users send emails to Instagram, do they just disappear into cyberspace? I sent countless emails directly to IG, and none of them were so much as acknowledged; why post a contact email on the app’s page if nobody will actually read it?
      2. In the future, should a user need assistance from IG, is there any realistic avenue of contact? The “report a problem” feature is extremely limited, and we’ve established that emailing will get us nowhere. Any suggestions?
      3. In the future. should a user’s account become hacked, what should we do? Immediately fixing my account myself got my hashtags broken for 3 months; if I or another user ends up getting hacked, is the better option to wait for someone to report our account, so IG can contact us with instructions to fix it?

      Again, thank you very much for finally fixing this! IG was my favorite app before this problem, and I’m excited to be able to fully use it again.

    • Peter Alfonso

      Hey Mike, this has also happened to my personal account @peteralfonso and my business account @osinolens Is there any way you could take a look at these accounts for me? Thank you for your time.

    • Jon Phelps

      Mike, I believe my account was affected as well. Would really appreciate a fix for my hashtags as soon as possible. Thanks! My account is @jonphelps

    • LittleMonsterx14

      Hello Sebastien,

      I am also currently having the problem where my hashtags do not work. It started about a week ago. My account it linked to my Facebook, and I have tried uninstalling and re-installing Instagram, with no luck. I created a new, temporary, account and my hashtags work normally on that account. Please help me fix my main account. I don’t know if i will continue to use Instagram if my hashtags wont work.

      Thank you
      Jacqueline

    • Khanaleem

      Hi Mike

      I have the same issue, I can post a pic with hashtags but my pics won’t show up when I click on the hashtags.. My account is @khanaleem

      Thanks

    • JT

      Hi Mike,

      I could add a hashtag to a photo of mine, but when I tapped on the tag to see the stream of photos in that feed, my photos were nowhere to be found. can you help please?

    • http://hautepot.tumblr.com hautepot

      Hi Mike! have the same problem but don’t think my account has been hacked. I have never received an email from instagram advising me of fixes to my account. I’ve also reported this problem several times to instagram without any response. How do I know if my account has been tagged as a ‘spammer’ and how can I fix it if it is tagged?

    • kreativtsirkus

      My hashtags havent worked proparly for monts now eather. Help center wont help m, even thoug ive tried several times to report my problem. I dont know if my account was hacked or not, but my hashtags dont work proparly. Thanks to anyone who can help

    • Jeep204

      Hey Mike,
      My instagram account has been having several problems with posting comments. I cannot comment on popular IG pages, as in I post a comment, but it is instantly deleted. My friends do not receive a notification and when I refresh my page after posting the comment, it disappears. It would be greatly appreciated if you could look into it. Thanks!

    • Kylee Maughan

      My account is having the same issue. Instagram was a great place for marketing and now I cannot reach out. I’ve reported the issue many times with no luck. @kyleeannphotos Please and thank you.

    • lauren maloney

      Hi Mike, Please Help! our account for our business has been having this issue for over a month now. Hashtags dont work for us, our photos don’t show up under any of them. We really need some assistance. Our account is @vampedboutique.

    • William Guy

      This is an ongoing problem. I have tried emailing support – but it’s just an endless circle of “We’re really busy, reply to this email if you still want support.” I just want to get my hashtags working – this has happened on two accounts already, and I don’t see why I should have to make a new one.

      Username: williamguuuy

    • Vakre augeblikk

      Hi Mike! May you please help me and try to fix my IG account? My hashtags just stop working. I have tried to report the problem for some months now, but I haven´t got any anwser, so you are my only hope. Please… I love IG and I really dont want to delete my account. Can you help me? Thank you for your time and energy! IG: Vakreaugeblikk

    • Yaya Laiu

      Hi there
      I am now having the same issues as well with my hashtags not working! I have tried contacting Instagram a few times and Facebook to help. I am a huge fan of instagram and I’d like to please have this issue resolved as well! I cannot post anything to any hashtags for the past couple of days! Please help!!

    • Yos Sudarso

      Hi mike.. i have same problem.. I use of hashtags in my
      photos was not working properly. I could add a hashtag to a photo of
      mine, but when I tapped on the tag to see the stream of photos in that
      feed, my photos were nowhere to be found.

    • Caitlin Dare Mallory

      Hi Mike,

      I am no longer able to use hashtags on my account either. This is frustrating as I use my account for work fairly often. I have seen that this is a widespread problem and I can’t find any information on how to fix it. Please have someone contact me to fix this.

      Thank you,

      Caitlin Mallory

    • Scott Michael White

      I’ve been having the same problem, my hashtags don’t work correctly.

  • http://iphonephotographyschool.com/ Emil Pakarklis

    Great article Sebastien.

    This is a widespread issue as several people have been unable to enter my photo contests that are based on hashtags. It’s great that you brought some publicity to the issue, let’s hope it can get fixed for everyone.

  • Mia

    Hi everybody. My account has been deleted with no notification! And still I don’t know what’s happened. Now I’m trying to contact Instagram’s support, however can’t find an appropriate e-mail address. Can someone help me telling me whom to contact with such issue? I’m really upset to lose my followers and account I love! Thank you guys in advance!

  • Aaron de Silva

    They just released an update to fix issues loading feeds. That’s what the update notes stated.

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      Hi. This update you mention is not related to the problem I wrote about in this post. My problem was that I was accidentally put in a “spammer” bucket following the hacking of my account. IG just needed to “unspam” me on their end.

  • Colleen

    Sebastien!!! You did it! You fixed the hashtags!! :D Thank you!!

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      I’m very happy this problem has been fixed for you too :)

  • Christopher

    Hi there,
    I am having a similar problem. Except, I didn’t have an account during this hack and my problem started happening a few days ago. Same thing, I was able to tag pictures but once I clicked on the tag, my photos don’t appear in the selected hashtag feed.
    I did some research online and some say to add tags, delete them, then tag them again. I did that and it actually worked BUT, once I refreshed and clicked on the tag again, my picture didn’t appear in the feed. Help? :(

  • Anna

    Nice for you that your account got fixed. Unfortunately the rest of us without a platform are remaining ignored.

  • Yasmeen Borum-Moore

    I haven’t been able to like any pics, leave comments, write captions on my pics or follow people. I have the iPhone 5c and
    Not getting an error message the likes and comments just disappear!!!! Any suggestions people please help!

    • Jeep204

      I have the exact same problem, minus the inability to like pics or write captions. I can’t post comments as they are instantly deleted!

  • http://hautepot.tumblr.com hautepot

    Hi! I have the same problem but don’t think my account has been hacked. I have never received an email from instagram advising me of fixes to my account. I’ve also reported this problem several times to instagram without any response. How do I know if my account has been tagged as a ‘spammer’?

  • Modivape

    I’m having the same problem. Account name is modivape

  • ridesxposed

    My instagram hashtags and search for my profile has not worked in over a month and I have sent over 9 help requests… with no response… Mike Krieger please help me :( Thank you :) – @RidesXposed