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‘Vandalism of a graveyard’: hundreds of Instagram posts remembering lives lost in the AIDS epidemic deleted

Meka Beresford September 6, 2017
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PinkNews Exclusive
An Instagram account which prides itself on “preserving the legacy of the AIDS epidemic” may be facing the end of its run.

The AIDS Memorial is an Instagram with nearly three thousand pictures and stories of people who lost their lives in the epidemic.

Run by a man named Stuart from Scotland, the account pays a beautiful tribute by telling the stories of “love, loss and remembrance”.

However, the account may cease to exist as Stuart told PinkNews that over the past three weeks hundreds of posts have been deleted, reinstated, deleted and reinstated once more by Instagram.

Now, he has been blocked from accessing the account and numerous attempts to regain access have failed.

Talking to PinkNews, Stuart explained that he first realised there was an issue after hundreds of his posts were deleted without warning.

Followers of the account who had sent their stories to him complained as they thought that he had deleted the posts on purpose.

“I got so many messages from people who have contributed and are upset thinking I initially deleted their posts,” he explained.

After lots of complaints made by himself and his followers, the posts re appeared but days later they were taken down once more.

However, followers sent powerful messages to the photo sharing platform.

“@Instagram you cannot allow all the memories that @the_aids_memorial has so painstakingly put together to simply disappear. They have to be restored, This is our history,” one person wrote.

“@Instagram this account is very important. Please restore 500 posts that have gone missing and if there is someone who’s responsible for this to hold them accountable for it,” another added.

A third pleaded: “Please @instagram these are more than just posts, they are memorials and these people’s lives mattered and @the_aids_memorial has been doing a wonderful job in making sure they’re remembered, do the right thing.”

The deleted posts have since returned but not Stuart can no longer access the account.

“I never got any acknowledgement why they were deleted or restored and now not having access to the account. No acknowledgement. No reasons why. It’s been three weeks of this,” he explained.

Stuart, who does not share his full name so that the focus is on the account, said that he fears the problems he is having will cause permanent damage to the memorial page.

“It’s so damaging. People will not feel the memorial is a safe place to share their stories.

“At the beginning when this was happening, I got angry posts from followers who had submitted posts asking hwy I had deleted them. They were so upset. It’s like vandalism in a graveyard,” he added.

Stuart said that he had done his best to explain but now he cannot access the account he is missing anniversaries of deaths that he had hoped to post about.

“It’s so upsetting,” he said. “These posts are sacred. It takes a lot for them to open up, write them, contact me and have them featured.

“Sometimes it’s the first time they have actually dealt with the issue. They see the memorial as a place to find comfort, solace.

“It’s devastating for them and me.”

Stuart does not know why he has been blocked from accessing the account but when he contacted Instagram he was told that they were “unable to give access to this account or take further action on this request” because he did not “provide the account’s sign up email”.

He then received another email saying that he had turned off two-factor authentication.

However, he could not have turned off the authentication because he did not have access to the account.

He explained that he had the backup authentication codes in case of something like this but now it has been rendered useless.

He fears that the account is hacked as this message “confirmed that someone is accessing the account”.

The account remains blocked but Stuart is calling for the help of followers on a separate account, @stuart_the_aids_memorial. He is urging people to contact Instagram to help regain access to the account and save it before it is too late.

PinkNews has contacted Instagram for comment.

More: AIDS, hacked, HIV, Instagram, LGBT

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