Instagram minus Instagram

2 minute read

AI is awesome

TL;DR: I created an Instagram bot account that posts my pics from my website with all faces censored. Continue reading to know why and how.

It’s no secret i don’t like social media. However, i have to give them credit where credit is due: they are unparalleled in their ease of use and their potential to keep us in touch with our closest friends. Taking these benefits into account, i created Flic Pics, a simple way to use and share my own personal pics.

What it does right now:

  • Upload pics through Telegram, my instant messenger of choice
  • Creates two versions of the pic: one with a watermark and one with all faces censored.
  • With an account, you can view the watermarked, uncensored version. (I need to create an account for you, just text me on Telegram)
  • The censored version gets posted to Instagram’s Stories in my bot account.

I want to censor faces so that Instagram and other bad actors don’t use them to, you know, track me and my friends around.

The tech

It uses Django for all of the web goodiness, Bootstrap because its Bootstrap. The fun parts are the glue that bring all of that together.

Creating a Telegram bot

Telegram bots are stupidly easy to create with python-telegram-bot. I have no idea how (and don’t have the time right now to look into it), but you don’t even need to host the code in some VPS to start hacking: it lets you do all on localhost. You just need to configure a bot in 30 seconds using the Botfather on Telegram, get the access token and use it with the library to start responding to commands (or, in my case, photos).

Censoring faces

I used face_recognition for its sheer ease of use. Just take a look at everything you need to find all faces in a picture:

import face_recognition
image = face_recognition.load_image_file("your_file.jpg")
face_locations = face_recognition.face_locations(image)

However, in my tests so far, it hasn’t been very accurate. In slightly tilted faces it doesn’t seem to work at all. I understand that might be just because i’m using the faster version (because i’m cheap and can’t afford a VPS with a GPU).

Uploading to Instagram

This was the biggest surprise to me: it’s super easy to do this with Instagram-API-python! Look at the example code:

from InstagramAPI import InstagramAPI

InstagramAPI = InstagramAPI("login", "password")
InstagramAPI.login()  # login

photo_path = '/path/to/photo.jpg'
caption = "Sample photo"
InstagramAPI.uploadPhoto(photo_path, caption=caption)

All libraries should expose an interface like that (on second thought, i wouldn’t have a job if they did). Amazingly, it worked at first try and so far i haven’t been rate limited even when i was debugging. There’s a caveat, though: if you need to post stories, try using my fork, since the original one doesn’t support posting stories.

That’s all, folks! If you want, you can follow my bot account on Instagram, or check the source on Github. In the future, i fully intend to make it available as a service, since perhaps there are other people who could find this useful as well.

Thank you so much for reading!