As of Wednesday October 28, Facebook-owned-Instagram changed its nudity policy to allow content where someone is “simply hugging, cupping or holding their breasts” in a turnaround on its previous policy.
The change comes after the three month campaign #IWantToSeeNyome, led by model Nyome Nicholas-Williams, photographer Alex Cameron and feminist campaigner Gina Martin (who previously lobbied to make upskirting illegal in the UK).
The petition titled Stop Instagram from censoring fat Black women highlights the bias that plus-sized women of color face on the platform, compared to the more “socially acceptable”, thinner and whiter bodies.
The catalyst for this movement was when photographs of Nicolas-Williams, though portraying a message of “self-love” for plus-sized Black models, were repeatedly removed from the platform, deemed pornographic. This was contrasted with other uncensored images, including a self-portrait of the photographer, as seen below.
Holding Instagram accountable
The campaign was brought to people’s attention when Stephanie Yeboah, author of Fattily Ever After: A Fat, Black Girl’s Guide to Living Life Unapologetically, spoke to Instagram and shared on Twitter that the platform appeared to be taking the campaign seriously.
This is perhaps unsurprising, as Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri posted in solidarity with the BLM movement just one month before, committing to bettering the platform in terms of harassment, content distribution and algorithmic bias.
In response to Yeboah, Instagram offered to reinstate the aforementioned censored posts, and planned to retrain its staff on “bigger bodies and nudity”.
While the platform’s staff that are hired to review posts might be undergoing a retraining, that’s not to say the artificial intelligence algorithm that flags such images has been. At the time of writing, Instagram is yet to respond.
Since the policy change, Gina Martin has set up a form for anyone who has had photos unfairly removed. This data will be collected and passed onto Instagram to help “ensure policy change is working to the best of its ability”, said Nicholas-Williams in her latest post.
‘Drawing the line’
This might be a step in the right direction for “tasteful” nudes, however Instagram made it clear, in an official statement, that it has to “draw the line somewhere.” This means that any content found on Instagram and Facebook with images of “squeezing” breasts in a “grabbing motion” with “bent fingers” will be breaking the rules.
Back in May 2019 we wrote that if you are an adult Instagram user building a brand, you may as well give up. While this nudity policy update may seem like things are moving forward, sexual wellness accounts should remain tentative when posting.
Nevertheless, there may be hope still, as founder of Make Love Not Porn, Cindy Gallop, has teamed up with Evi from sex toy startup, Biird, with their campaign: End Sexual Wellness Censorship on Social Media Platforms.
Alas, until alternative and more diverse sex-positive platforms such Lips Zine and PleazeMe take off, adult-focused creators are stuck treading the fine line between what’s allowed and being banned.