Over the weekend, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Instagram account, @SussexRoyal, became the fastest account to hit a million followers, achieving that milestone in five hours and 45 minutes. However, ‘@SussexRoyal’ was previously owned by driving instructor Kevin Keiley – who had his account name altered by Instagram without his knowledge or consent.
So did the royal family act above the law in seizing a lowly serf’s digital belongings? No, not really. In reality, a ‘use it or lose it’ policy was to blame.
Kelly hadn’t been an active user of the handle so Instagram swiped it from him, handed it over the royal couple and left Keiley without a cent for his trouble. And it turns out that Instagram’s management was acting within the terms and conditions of the service.
Keiley is a fan of the Reading Football Club, nicknamed The Royals, and he comes from Sussex. So the handle, which he’s had for about three years according to a report at the BBC makes perfect sense and wasn’t simply the idea of a random domain squatter.
It all kinda sucks for Keiley who was given, as a consolation prize, the handle @_sussexroyal_. He wasn’t even told that the royal couple were swiping his Instagram handle. He has the same handle on Twitter and has made sure his 1576 followers know the score. At last count, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor had a healthy following of 4.5 million people – dwarfing Keiley’s audience.
This is the original and only Sussexroyal. We talk about supporting Reading FC
— Kevin Keiley (@Sussexroyal) April 3, 2019
All of this may sound trivial but it highlights something important. If your social media handles aren’t used and someone comes along and makes a case to operators of that network you could lose them without any warning. If you’re a business or entrepreneur that has snaffled up a few handles “just in case” be aware that they could be reassigned if they’re not used.
In particular, if you have a handle that could be mistaken as belonging to someone famous, keep the account active so that you can’t be accused of squatting or not using the account.
If you’re interested in what Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be sharing on their Instagram account, it’s unlikely to be candid snaps of the couple or a look at what they’re having for brunch. The account will be strictly for official royal activities.