For nearly three years, 15-year-old Rowan Winch has been building a modern media empire out of his bedroom. The Pennsylvania high-schooler has founded several meme and humor pages that have collectively generated tens of millions of likes on Instagram, boosting the platform’s overall engagement numbers and helping keep its most prized users, teenagers, heavily addicted to the app.
In order to support his burgeoning company, Winch has applied for an LLC, hired a designer to create custom branding and illustrations for his account avatars, and has spent money through Instagram’s official ad network to promote his pages. To pay for all this he, like the people behind most large meme pages, posts advertising.
But a week and a half ago, Winch's largest account, @Zuccccccccccc, which had more than 1.2 million followers, was disabled overnight. On July 26, Instagram wiped more than 142 memers’ accounts, with no explanation or recourse, as part of a purge. Winch tried to appeal, but he says so far he has had no luck. A spokesperson for Instagram told The Atlantic, “These accounts were disabled following violations of our policies, including attempted abuse of our internal processes.” Winch disputes these allegations, saying that he has never abused Instagram’s internal processes. He hasn’t ever even spoken to anyone at Instagram or Facebook.