Facebook Signs Petition against Instagram Clone Sites

On Thursday, Facebook has lodged a complaint against the website owner who operated an Instagram clone site network. The company claimed that Turkish national Ensar Sahinturk, who allegedly runs a network of Instagram clone sites illegally collected data from over 100,000 Instagram accounts and then published it on its own network of websites. According to the court case, Facebook says with the help of automation software Sahinturk scrape over 100,000 Instagram user’s public accounts, videos, and photos without any consent.

The social media app says that they came to know about the clone site network last year in November. They get to know that the operator managed illegal copies of websites that were similar to Instagram like jolygram.com, imggram.com, imggram.net, finalgram.com, pikdo.net, and ingram.ws. In an interview with TechCrunch, Facebook added that these websites are having heavy traffic. Jolygram.com which is the first one among these websites has been operating since August 2017, while the rest of them have been made online in the following years.

Along with these copyright infringements, Sahinturk used an automated web scraping tool to scrape data from Instagram and use it for its own purpose. He does so by making the tools act like a Facebook server request coming from someone that uses the Instagram official app. In this way, Sahinturk created thousands of accounts and utilize them to send a request to Facebook users for information, enabling him to scrap data in vast amounts.

Facebook claims that a very high number of fake accounts used every day. For instance, on April 17th, 2020, more than 7,700 fake accounts were used by the accused person to send an automated request to Facebook users. On 22nd, April 2020, the number of accounts rises to 9000.

On the clone website, users were allowed to access any Instagram handle and see their public profiles, stories, pictures, hashtags, location, and videos. These clone sites also enable visitors to save videos and pictures that were posted on Instagram. Although, this feature is not directly provided by Instagram. Instagram is an official app that does not even provide a save option.

Facebook sought to guard against these multiple terms of service violations in 2019, when it removed nearly 30,000 fake Instagram accounts run by the operator of the clone website. Facebook also sent a number of discontinued letters and blocked more Instagram and Facebook pages which also includes one profile that belongs to the operator. In reply to these accusations, the defendant argued that he did not run jolygram.com, which had only been registered under his name. But he also said that he shut it down.

Facebook states that the resources it used to investigate and tried to fix issues with the owner’s operations have increased to $25,000 and is asking for damages to be evaluated during the proceedings.

Read next: Facebook Published A Report On Its Evolving Efforts To Tackle Hate Speech; The Company Has Included The Prevalence of Hate Speech As Part Of Its Quarterly Community Standards Enforcement Report
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