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Teens Keep Stealing Each Other's Photos To Go Viral And It's Really Gotten Out Of Hand

Turns out that before-and-after photo on Instagram you love might be totally fake.

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Last week a number of teens posted tweets calling out Instagram meme pages for stealing their photos.

Twitter: @christenrhule

The Twitter user above, @christenrhule, has since deleted her tweet. BuzzFeed News has reached out to her for comment.

Tweets about the photo thefts have gone super viral.

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After two tweets about the stolen photos went viral, other people came forward to say the same had happened to them.

Two of the Instagram pages accused of photo theft were @transformationfeed and @relationships.usa.

Instagram: @transformationfeed

The @transformationfeed page has been around since late 2016, while @relationships.usa was created in early 2014.

@transformationfeed specializes in "transformation" memes, showing before-and-after photos of people growing up, losing weight, or changing their style. @relationships.usa posts aspirational relationship posts.

Both pages have millions of followers.

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The owner of the account identified themself as a 16-year-old who asked not to be named for fear of harassment. They told BuzzFeed that they stole @christenrhule's tweet because they wanted a "bop."

"Her caption would've never brought attention to the post," they said. "It was my first time doing it. I don't plan on doing it again."

They said they took the tweet because they like running a page that makes people happy and entertains their followers. "I'm a nice person," they said.

When asked if they'd take down the tweet, they said they had not been asked to by @christenrhule, and that they would only do so when asked.

The owner of @transformationfeed, the page accused of stealing @ochoa_06's tweet, also identified themself as a 16-year-old and told BuzzFeed News someone else made the post.

@ochoa__06 How sad caught in a lie and still wants to play victim

The owner — who also requested their name be withheld — said they do not make their own posts, and that they don't think they're responsible for the stolen tweet.

The owner said they actually buy their posts from the owner of another account called @course, which has over 4 million followers. After becoming aware of the fake posts, @transformationfeed said they had removed them from their page.

The owner of the @course Instagram page identified himself as an 18-year-old from Toronto named Hasan. He told BuzzFeed News that he is a part of a network of meme pages that have previously shared passwords and sometimes content.

Instagram

According to screenshots Hasan provided to BuzzFeed News, @transformationfeed, @course, @relationships.usa, and a fourth account called @morons shared passwords to each other's accounts. The owners of these accounts, for the most part, appear to be teenage boys.

Hasan said it wasn't him who took @ochoa_06's tweet for the post that appeared on @transformationfeed. He said he, @transformationfeed, and @relationships.usa are friends and that the whole thing was a big joke.

“It all started when relationships.usa needed a post that was heartwarming so he went on Twitter and found that tweet and changed the caption,” Hasan said. “Because heartwarming posts get more engagement. I thought it was real and reposted it, until people started DM'ing me and I got confused.”

Hasan provided screenshots appearing to show that after he discovered the post was fake, he went onto Twitter and direct-messaged the original poster, getting permission to keep using the photo. However, in a later update on his Instagram story, he said he had deleted the photo after pressure from followers.

Shortly after BuzzFeed spoke to Hasan, his account was suspended for an unrelated incident.

While this has been going on, other meme accounts have been encouraging followers to "expose" @transformationfeed and @relationships.usa.

instagram.com

The owner of an Instagram account called @greaseychips, a 15-year-old from England, told BuzzFeed that she regularly uses posts from other pages because "the big accounts have killed all memes." However, she also said she would not take from accounts like @transformationfeed because she disapproves of the stolen posts.

"It's not fair on the people in the posts," she said.

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The response from those who have had their photos stolen has been mixed. Anthony Ochoa, the 17-year-old Hasan messaged for permission, told BuzzFeed News that he didn't really mind the fake post that used his tweet remaining up.

First day of freshman year & kindergarten vs last day of senior year & 3rd grade😇

"I'm one that believes in karma and stuff like that so I feel like if I tell them to leave it up then it'll bite me in the back, but at the same time I feel like it's not that deep and it's just funny so I don't know," he said.

However, others who have photos stolen aren't as forgiving. Janelle Mughannam, a 22-year-old YouTuber from California whose photo was also stolen, told BuzzFeed News that when her Instagram followers alerted her to the theft she found it "disrespectful."

@ochoa__06 Yoooo they did it to me too😭 And that's not even me on the left LMFAO

"I have no idea who the girl on the left is," she said. "But it's not okay. It's really disrespectful to both of us. They're creating false hope and lies just to get some likes."

@transformationfeed and @relationships.usa both said the stolen posts were isolated incidents. However, BuzzFeed News has identified other posts on their pages with altered captions. For instance, this tweet by @huskykyle appears with different captions on both pages.

A spokesperson for Instagram said it decided to disable the @transformationfeed account when it became aware of the stolen post.

"The account you flagged has been disabled – and I believe had already been reported and disabled by the time you asked about it," the spokesperson said. "Posting unauthorized photos or videos is a violation of Instagram’s Community Guidelines, and we encourage people to flag instances through our in-app reporting tools."

However, at time of publishing, @transformationfeed is back up. The @relationships.usa and @course accounts are also still live as of publishing.

Rachael Krishna is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Rachael Krishna at rachael.krishna@buzzfeed.com.

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