Friday, July 19, 2019

"Tag cleaners, as they call themselves, drown out gore, harassment, and more by flooding a user’s tagged photos with pleasant images. It’s benevolent spam"

Over the last few days, a teenager named Taylor has spent more than a dozen hours uploading north of 900 photos to Instagram. She listens to music or watches TV while she posts the same photos of millennial pink grids, flowers, and cotton candy clouds over and over. Each one is marked with the same user — escty, real name Bianca Devins — whose tagged photos have become a wall of beautiful images and hopeful messages.

In the early hours of Sunday, July 14th, Devins was brutally murdered. Photos of the 17-year-old’s body were posted to Instagram and then spread across Discord, 4chan, and Twitter. While some well-wishers flocked to her account to express their sadness and support for her family, Instagram became awash with ghoulish accounts dedicated to sharing the photos.


User kanyewestnandos — who posts the same meme of the rapper in a Nando’s — says tag cleaning offers protection that goes beyond simply reporting a malicious account. “It is harder to witch hunt the people who are posting graphic material because they can change their username,” they say. “And if they eventually end up getting reported they can make a new account.” Some photos or disrespectful memes may not violate Instagram’s rules, meaning they stay up. Another tag cleaner, a 15-year-old named Valerie, says that it’s a fast way to push images to the bottom of an account. “If you just report, it is likely that it won’t get taken down immediately and people will have enough time to save the picture and spread it, which is what we’re trying to avoid,” she says.