Facebook takes Instagram user’s name, then gives it back

Was this woman's handle taken by a Facebook employee -- and just now returned?

Above: Was this woman's handle taken by a Facebook employee -- and just now returned?

Image Credit: Instagram

Facebook has returned a username that it peremptorily took away from an Instagram user recently.

A post today on story site Medium tells the tale.

In a piece entitled “They say ‘nothing will change’/*Everything* changes,” Web designer Brian Hoff explains how his wife’s username on Instagram, @kathleen, suddenly changed to @_____kathleen. At first, he said, they thought someone had hacked into it.

They tried @InstagramHelp on Twitter, and support via email, to no avail:

No response whatsoever. I wasn’t overly surprised since their last support tweet was 587+ days ago. You know, just about the time that Facebook wrote out that big fat check. And they said ‘nothing will change. We’ll keep the service operating independently as it currently is.’

Later, when he Instagrammed a photo to her, she was logged out and her password no longer worked, and he discovered that another person was now using @kathleen on Instagram.

But here’s the kicker: the new owner of the @kathleen username on Instagram is a current Facebook/Instagram employee. Yes, you read that correctly.

Instagram, of course, is owned by Facebook.

To help prove his wife’s claim, Hoff said he had dozens of emails from Instagram noting that his wife’s password had been changed. He added that he wasn’t accusing the new @kathleen of personally stealing or assisting with same. Via Twitter, he added that, “for all I know [the employee] had no idea what happened.”

But there was no explanation forthcoming from Facebook — and no response after other attempts to reach Instagram support.

Hoff and his wife also tweeted today that the new Kathleen’s profile photo and last name had been there earlier today, but was later removed.

Now the plot thickens. By mid-afternoon today, Hoff tweeted that Facebook returned his wife’s Instagram account to her.

And we’ve just gotten this comment from an Instagram spokesperson:

Like many social services, Instagram has a policy of reassigning usernames from accounts that have been inactive for a significant length of time. While the policy is standard practice and will continue, Instagram employees strive to always put members of the Instagram community first, and so we will be returning the name to the previous owner.

It’s apparently not true that this was an inactive account: Hoff tweeted that his wife had posted some photos on her old account, and often liked and commented on photos. (The account in question has 95 posts, 113 followers, and is following 100 people, but since it’s a private account, we can’t check to see how recent those posts are.)

We asked Instagram if the company knew if an employee had taken the handle from the original Kathleen, and whether an account is considered inactive even if it was used only to comment or like. No word back yet. We’ll update this post if we hear more.

More information:

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1.15 billion monthly active users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 we... read more »

Instagram is a free photo sharing application designed for use on Apple iOS devices developed by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. The application, which is compatible with any iPhone or iPod Touch running iOS 3.1.2 or above, allows user... read more »

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