UPDATE: Added source credit. =M=

ActiveDevelopment, the creators of new iPhone photo app Picfx, are behind a coordinated effort to spam the popular social network Instagram with an image promoting Picfx in an effort to give away 5 copies of the app. Although technically this does not violate Instagram’s Terms of Service (I read them. They’re surprisingly brief and readable for legalese), hijacking another company’s app to promote your own is ethically questionable. Asking potential users to spam a closed network is at the very least annoying, instrusive, and sets a bad precedent if unchecked. It think this “promotion” is just wrong.

We recently reviewed Picfx here. It’s not a terrible app, but annoying potential users certainly can’t win it favor.

The spam is coordinated from a page off of the Picfx website. As part of an app giveaway, users are told to download an image on the website — basically an ad for Picfx, or take a screen capture from the Picfx Instagram profile. Users are then asked to share it on Instagram along with the hashtag #picfx. The prize is one of five free copies of a $2 app. The end result is a lot of spam on Instagram.

This is the Instagram equivalent of all the Facebook spam promising users a new iPad or a $1,000 WalMart Gift Card if they “repost this message to their profile.” Do people still do that on Facebook? I don’t know. I have all of that turned off or blocked so I don’t have to see most of it. What’s different with Instagram, though, is that there are no spam filters and no way to block or turn off spam or messages like this.

There’s already plenty to sort through on Instagram. I don’t want to add commercials or spam to the mix.

So, for the cost of less than $10 in potential sales, ActiveDevelopment gets a ton of free lipservice while getting users do the heavy lifting of promoting Picfx — all for the chance of winning a copy of a $2 app. Hashtag FAIL.

I hope this motivates Instagram to update their Terms of Service to not allow similar coordinated commercial spam attacks in the future. I hope Instagram users quickly get fed up with this attempt to hijack Instagram and that there’s a backlash against the campaign that renders it ineffective. Some users have already started sharing a Spamfx screenshot — blasting the developers of the app. I’ve included a copy of it down below.

Developers, show some respect for my Instagram feed and don’t try to go down this same road.



Big belated thanks to Stacy Anderson for the tip on this one.