Instagram chief was banned from own site – because someone else faked his death

The head of Instagram was banned from the photo-sharing app after someone tricked his company into thinking he was dead.

Adam Mosseri, 38, is Meta's Instagram chief. He was left unable to access the app because someone sent a fake obituary to Instagram support.

Mosseri's account was 'memorialised', a feature where Instagram locks people's accounts and preserves them as memorial tributes after someone has died.

In this case, Mosseri's death was faked by a 'scammer' who said they were trying to raise awareness of Instagram's 'flawed' memorialisation features.

Currently, anybody can report someone has died to the app and get their account locked.

Instagram requires evidence in order to do so, but this can be as simple as a fake written obituary or a photo.

Many fraudsters offer 'banning' services, where people can pay to have the feature exploited in order to ban anybody from Instagram.

The 'scammer' in question, who goes under the pseudonym Syenrai, told Motherboard they simply created a fake obituary for Mosseri online.

“I find it ridiculous how Instagram lets such things even happen on their platform in the first place,” Syenrai said.

“The entire banning community needs to be discovered and reported to Instagram so they can put an end to this—it’s basically the dark side of Instagram.”

The scammer went onto explain how easy it is to get people banned from Instagram using the feature, claiming that the app will retire accounts based on random obituaries that aren't even connected to the user in question.

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They said: “I have a method which is as simple as finding an online obituary of a person who recently passed away. I then submit a memorialise request for the victim’s account using the random obituary I found, and it takes 1-2 days for support to process.”

“As long as the obituary is recent (within same week) the target will be memorialised. It works 98% of the time.”

It can often take weeks to get an account properly restored, with victims being removed from the app during that time.

Instagram confirmed Mosseri had been incorrectly banned, and said it acted quickly to restore his access.

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The app also said it was aware of the scam, and that it offers a form to people who have been incorrectly 'memorialised' so they can get their account restored.

A spokesperson said: “Like other internet services, Instagram has online forms to help people report suspicious activity or to let us know a friend or family member has passed away."

"Unfortunately, some people abuse these forms, so we hire investigators and cybersecurity specialists to detect scammers’ tactics so we can improve and make it increasingly difficult for them.”

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