F—Jerry, the wildly popular Instagram account that’s gained millions of followers and built a media company by posting jokes and memes without acknowledging their real creators, hasn’t had a great week.
The account has lost hundreds of thousands of followers as the “F—F—Jerry” hashtag, started by Vulture writer Megh Wright, has gained support from a bevy of top comedians: Amy Schumer, John Mulaney, Patton Oswalt, Whitney Cummings and Paul Scheer, among many others have backed the digital boycott.
“It’s not the most pressing issue of the day, but yeah, unfollow this garbage account,” Mulaney said on Instagram. “They have stolen jokes from me and many other comedians and profit off it.”
In Vulture on Wednesday, Wright outlined several reasons why she launched the hashtag. First, Jerry Media, the marketing company founded by Elliot Tebele on F—Jerry’s success, was portrayed as an innocent victim of Fyre Festival ringleader and convicted felon Billy McFarland in Netflix’s recent documentary on the failed music festival, rather than a firm that helped market the event through its network of influencers.
Coincidentally, Jerry Media helped produce the Netflix documentary.
Most importantly, Wright wanted to know why F—Jerry hadn’t “been effectively called out and held accountable for all of its scammy, exploitative behavior?”
The account, created in 2011, built a massive Instagram following of 14.3 million users — and 40 million followers across all platforms — by stealing memes, posting them, and often erasing the handles of their creators. That strategy clearly violates Instagram’s policy to “post authentic content, and don’t post anything you’ve copied or collected from the Internet that you don’t have the right to post.”
An Instagram rep, in a statement to TheWrap, said it “takes intellectual property rights seriously” and works to “quickly remove infringing images when they’re reported.” The rep added: “If a rights holder sees their image being improperly used on Instagram, they can submit a report and we will evaluate and take the appropriate action. If someone continues to infringe the copyright of others, we will remove their account from Instagram.”
Instagram did not immediately respond to a followup on how many complaints it has received about FuckJerry posting content without creator consent.
F—Jerry’s success has helped its braintrust launch several satellite accounts with big followings, including chief content officer James Ryan Ohliger’s @krispyshorts Instagram, which has more than 300,000 followers. Even more upsetting for comedians, though, is that Jerry Media has parlayed its audience into big money. Marketers spend upwards of $75,000 for sponsored posts on F—Jerry, according to ABC News.
Adding to Wright’s campaign, comedian Vic Berger created a video late last week, titled “F—Jerry: Easier to Steal,” blasting the company’s history of lifting from creators without consent. In the video, Berger shows Ohliger told him to “shut up” when he asked the account to either delete or credit him for a Ted Cruz video it had reposted. The video quickly racked up thousands of views and shot to the top of Reddit, but has since been pulled from YouTube for copyright infringement after Ohliger filed a complaint. The video is still up on Twitter and Vimeo.
“Here’s how they appear to have amassed their fortune,” Berger wrote Tuesday in a Rolling Stone op-ed. “They stole people’s tweets, removed credit and monetized it. That’s all. It’s very simple. And enraging.”
F—Jerry has dropped from 14.3 million to 14 million Instagram followers in the last week, after Berger’s video went viral and stars like Cummings and Schumer backed the hashtag.
The company seems to be well aware of the backlash. Jerry Media did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment, but Tebele, in a Medium post earlier this week, said he’s aware he’s “made enemies over the years for using content and not giving proper credit and attribution to its creators.” Tebele said he’s made a “concerted, proactive effort” in the past few years to credit creators. That still wasn’t going far enough, Tebele conceded.
“Effective immediately, we will no longer post content when we cannot identify the creator, and will require the original creator’s advanced consent before publishing their content to our followers,” Tebele added. “It is clear that attribution is no longer sufficient, so permission will become the new policy.”