3 creators and a lawyer share how social media bans work, and the best way to safeguard your account

fitness influencer
Accidentally playing copyrighted music in the background of your video can put your account at risk.

  • When influencers or creators are banned for known or unknown reasons, it can impact their income.
  • Three creators and a lawyer shared their experiences with social media bans.
  • They advised avoiding using third-party content and being cautious while livestreaming.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Getting banned on social media isn’t just a nuisance for influencers and creators. Oftentimes these platforms are a huge part of their livelihood – and the longer they’re unable to create content and share it with their audience, the more money they lose out on.

Bans are often instituted by a platform for reasons including harassment, bullying, or copyright or policy violations, but they can also happen for unknown reasons or by accident.

They’re also surprisingly common: Twitter suspended roughly 925,000 accounts during the first half of 2020 alone, and, in June 2019, Instagram conducted a “meme page purge,” removing accounts with a combined reach of 30 million followers. Those pages’ creators lost out on tens of thousands of dollars in placements, sponsorships, and advertising income.

Three creators and a lawyer shared how to avoid getting removed from a platform.

Know the risks of using third-party materials

A 30-year-old influencer who goes by the name Produced By Blanco has been making music professionally since 2018. He’s worked with artists signed to major labels including Atlantic, Roc Nation, Sony, Columbia, Republic, and Universal, has 12,500 followers on Instagram, and has driven millions of views on YouTube.

© Produced By Blanco
Produced By Blanco.

Blanco told Insider he avoids terms-of-use violations, like sharing unauthorized content, by only sharing his own content or content made by artists he’s worked with.

“It’s the safest route,” Eric Lauritsen, a Los Angeles-based music industry attorney who’s represented clients who’ve been banned from platforms like Twitch and TikTok, told Insider. But creators don’t have to follow Blanco’s all-or-nothing approach as long as they understand the risks.

“To be safe, make it a policy not to use material owned by third parties,” he said. “But, if you intend to use third-party material anyway, you may be OK doing it, but at a minimum, accept the fact that a third-party will claim the revenue or your content is at risk of removal. Some parties may go further though and may want to pursue a claim against you for statutory damages,” he added, citing the landmark Napster case in 2000, where Metallica sued for $100,000 in damages per song illegally downloaded on the site.

Most social media platforms treat the use of copyrighted material the same, whether it’s by accident (for example, someone else’s song playing in the background of your livestream) or on purpose (like blatantly stealing it). And saying “no copyright infringement” won’t protect you, either.

Control as much of your content as possible

Matthew Pettito, 18, has 3.8 million followers on TikTok, 192,000 followers on Instagram, 26,000 followers on Twitch, and is sponsored by energy-drink company Bang Energy. He first downloaded TikTok in July 2019 and said he had one million followers by June 2020.

© Matthew Petitto
Matthew Petitto.

He began livestreaming on TikTok to start making money through the TikTok Creator Program (per the Creator terms, you need at least 1,000 followers to be eligible to monetize your livestream). While hosting a TikTok livestream one night, Pettito was also on Omegle, a free app that facilitates chats with strangers online.

“There are no community guidelines, so it’s not uncommon for people on the website to be saying or doing vulgar things,” Pettito told Insider. “I was on track to make $1,000 that night, and all of a sudden, I was removed from the app and banned for 48 hours.” He lost the $1,000 due to the vulgar comment being picked up on his livestream.

Pettito recommended other influencers use caution while streaming live “because you can’t edit or take back anything,” he said. Some users even record livestream content and upload it to other platforms, so whatever you say or do can take on a life of its own – for better or worse.

Consider hiring an attorney if you have a significant amount of money at stake

Dakota Elder, 27, had his YouTube account banned in 2019 and his TikTok account banned in 2020. At the time, he said he had 100,000 subscribers on YouTube and 500,000 followers on TikTok.

© Dakota Elder
Dakota Elder.

He told Insider he still doesn’t know why either account was banned and didn’t hear back from either platform when he asked why. Elder was on track to make about $2,500 in revenue the following month from both accounts.

“There’s going to be a lot of variation depending on the terms of use of the site and the user’s activity before the ban,” Lauritsen said about why platforms may not reveal the reason behind the ban. “The site may not even be obligated to provide a reason.”

Elder now has over 4.4 million followers on his new TikTok profile but chose not to recreate his YouTube channel. Despite being permanently banned from both, he created the new TikTok account by just signing up again.

“Making the new account was smooth as butter,” he said. “I had no problems, and I haven’t had an issue since the first video on the new account.” It was easy to sign back up again, he said, although he couldn’t access the old account, followers, or content.

Taking the revenue hit was likely the most cost-effective option for Elder, but for creators with a significant amount of money at stake, consulting an attorney could be worth it.

“I have seen scenarios where clients had music taken down from streaming services, reached out, did not receive a response, then hired me to follow up and I was able to get information,” Lauritsen said. “There is an extra air of legitimacy using an attorney to at least help get you more information.

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