Industry News

Instagram Link Stickers Will Disappear—for Some

October 20, 2021

By Jacqueline Tobin

If you’ve violated Instagram's community guidelines—like posting boudoir or fine-art nude photography—you may get a notice to say goodbye to the platform's link stickers in Instagram stories. This is the notice that many users have received, with no option to appeal the action.

Photographers and content creators who rely on Instagram as a means of driving income have more to worry about than ever-changing algorithms. On Monday, the platform began distributing notifications to users that their ability to post Instagram link stickers to their stories will be revoked.

“Starting October 25, you will no longer have access to the link sticker because you have shared content that violates our Community Guidelines,” the notice reads. However, some people that have received this message reported they never violated guidelines. Users are given a link to the community guidelines and an “OK” button. There is no option to appeal the action.

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Instagram link stickers were introduced in August, replacing the swipe-up function in stories. The change to a clickable link on stories was meant to improve the ability to drive followers to websites outside the platform, like photo blogs, e-commerce shops, workshops and educational and product pages. It’s been a boon to photographers, content creators and small businesses that rely on their accounts and following for income—especially if they’re sponsored.

“I’ve spent about $100,000 the last year on ads,” wrote one user on Reddit whose Instagram link stickers were revoked, having 200,000 followers. “Since iOS 14, conversion ads haven’t worked much, so 90% of my business is the link stickers now. I’m totally screwed now. I didn’t even violate anything, my account is totally PG.”

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“I run an art class and ‘violated’ a few months ago—someone reported a drawing of nudity,” wrote another user. “I have 13,000 followers and use links in my stories all the time. Seven days until no more promotion?? Very confusing. To what end? Someone mentioned a paid ad slot—I’m not even allowed to pay for ads on IG! What is the point?”

Some confused users have reported that they received the notice to remove their Instagram link stickers but haven’t shared a link in months, leading to the assumption that Instagram is punishing users who were flagged for a violation a year ago or more. Others have pointed out that the platform is not identifying which violations were “fair” ahead of revoking Instagram link stickers.

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“I am an influencer” one person wrote. “A few months ago, I posted an old photo of me and my dad in the swimming pool and my brother flagged it as a ‘joke.’ I want to kill him now, this would ruin my collaborations.”

Instagram has been criticized for being biased in flagging certain posts over others, including body positive creatives, boudoir and fine-art nude photographers, and activists. Nyome Nicholas-Williams, a Black plus-size model, disputed Instagram’s nudity policy last year when she posted boudoir photos of herself that were taken down for violating community guidelines. Instagram since changed its nudity policy, but users continue to contend with the platform’s AI system, which flags some posts that may address but not promote topics that the community guidelines ban. This would skew judgment as to whose Instagram link stickers should be removed.

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One user in such a position wrote: “Losing access to my link sticker on Instagram (where literally most of my income comes from) as a result of having stories reported where I spoke about the sexual harassment I receive on social media. What a f***ing complete and utter joke that app is.”

instagram link stickers removal user complaint

“I think Instagram’s algorithm may in part have trouble distinguishing from educational content calling out hatred and bigotry from actual hatred and bigotry,” writer Jordyn Tilchen told Vice. Instagram has flagged several of her posts that were meant to educate her followers about antisemitism—including some posts that were reported by anti-Semites, she told Vice—which in turn will hinder her ability to include Instagram link stickers in her stories. “They may flag a post of mine for mentioning Hitler, or an educational post showcasing threats Jewish people receive, and flag that content as the actual threat when that’s simply not the case at all.”

A spokesperson for Instagram told Motherboard that the platform intends to remove Instagram link stickers for “people who have repeatedly or severely violated these policies. However, we’re investigating an issue where people may have mistakenly been notified that they will be restricted, and we’re working on resolving this as soon as possible.”

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Until then, photographers and other content creators will have until October 25 to include Instagram link stickers in their stories and will need to come up with a workaround to drive followers elsewhere. As one Reddit user remarked, “That’s kinda hilarious that they’re giving you a 7-day window to go nuts with the sticker. Why wouldn’t they just remove it immediately? Just Instagram things, I guess.”