Identifying user accounts on Instagram
There will be occasions where you might want to find out who is behind an Instagram account. You can obtain a disclosure order which will compel Instagram to disclose users’ information. This article helps you with the process of identifying user accounts on Instagram
Social media disclosure orders
Yes. You can obtain user information from Instagram in relation to any Instagram user account. In order to be able to apply for disclosure, you will need to demonstrate that you have a valid legal claim against the holder of the Instagram account. A valid legal claim might be any claim that you could bring before the criminal or the civil courts. This may include a claim for harassment, a claim for defamation, a claim for breach of copyright or trademark, breach of privacy or misuse of your private information and this list is not exhaustive.
- The process of obtaining disclosure information from Instagram is as follows:
- Confirm that you have the correct Instagram account number
- Write to Instagram to confirm that the account is either active or suspended
- Send Facebook a short statement of case, setting out your valid legal claim
- Send Facebook a draft disclosure order that you will be submitting to the court
- Receive Facebook written approval for the terms of the disclosure order
- File a claim with the High Court
- Pay the appropriate court fees and request a listing for a hearing either in person or a paper hearing
- Submit to the court your disclosure application and relevant evidence
- Submit to the court a skeleton argument, setting out the court’s jurisdiction to make a Norwich Pharmacal Order
- Address any issue of jurisdiction, including why service outside the jurisdiction is not required
- Obtain an order, if required, for the preservation of evidence by Instagram
- Receive the court order and immediately submit it to Facebook Facebook should send the disclosure information within 3-4 weeks
Yes. Instagram may object to providing user information disclosure. For this reason, it is important to do the preparatory work, most importantly to negotiate the terms of the disclosure order with Facebook lawyers in advance of any court application.
It is rare for Instagram to refuse to provide user disclosure and they will refuse only if they feel that the application for disclosure is not made for the right reasons, or in other words, is made without presenting a valid legal claim. Whilst Instagram might object to your initial draft disclosure order, there is always a scope for negotiation and for fine-tuning of the disclosure request.
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The type of cases that we often deal with when it comes to obtaining disclosure from Instagram are cases of fraud, where fraud was committed through the use of an Instagram account, cases of harassment where threats, blackmail or other harassment was posted or communicated through an Instagram account, cases of breach of privacy, where private information was either sent through an Instagram account or where there is a threat to post private information, cases of defamation, where libelous comments, videos, and images have either been posted or promoted using an Instagram account and cases of breach of copyright, trademark or other intellectual property right through the use of an Instagram account or an Instagram handle or account user name.
It normally takes a minimum of 6 weeks for the entire process of obtaining disclosure from Instagram, but the process could take longer. Factors are court availability and urgency or the lack of it on the part of Instagram. Instagram's official policy states that content, including account information, will be automatically deleted 30 days after the account was closed or deleted. However, Instagram’s policy also states that it may take up to 90 days to complete the deletion process after it begins.
Copies of the content may remain after 90 days in backup storage and they might be kept for longer whenever there are legal issues. We advise our clients to seek Instagram disclosure as soon as possible and never wait for the expiry of the 30 days before making the disclosure request.
After an account is deleted, it becomes harder to identify it (particularly if all you have is a user name and screenshots) and collect the data. Whilst we would expect Instagram to retain data for at least 90 days, this has not always been the case.
We are the first lawyers in the UK to have obtained disclosure orders from Facebook and Instagram. We have been obtaining disclosure orders from social media companies for more than 12 years and over time have become highly efficient and successful in getting the disclosure for our clients.
Whilst you may try and follow the process yourself, we recommend that you call us for advice before attempting to make a disclosure application to Instagram yourself.