Efforts to challenge Instagram for its removal of hundreds of adult performers’ accounts have proved successful – even if there’s still a long way to go in terms of clarifying vague and confusing content guidelines.
The Adult Performers Actors Guild Union (APAG) met with Facebook-owned Instagram’s policy team last Wednesday to get some answers as to why so many accounts get removed for no reason.
Adult film stars, sex workers, activists, cam girls and models shared the hashtag #instaSTRIKE as part of a five-day social media campaign in the run up to the meeting, condemning the site’s confusing content guidelines that lead to account suspensions.
APAG chair Alana Evans, vice president Ruby The First, and other board members attended a meeting at Instagram’s HQ in Menlo Park, California. The union arranged travel from Los Angeles to Menlo Park for other union members and models to attend the protest outside the building. A strike was also held on Broadway, New York.
Evans told porn industry site XBIZ that APAG “is taking on the fight for marginalized workers who believe they’ve been wrongfully deleted from a social networking platform that purports to be inclusive of all.”
According to XBIZ’s report of the meeting, “several Facebook and Instagram sources, on and off the record, confirmed that the company is currently reviewing the appeal process for individual posts and for whole accounts and that some of the feedback provided by sex workers and adult performers in the last few months have proven crucial.”
Why is this important?
For many adult performers, who are doing legal work, censorship and suspension of their social media accounts can ultimately leave them out of job. Considering the amount of work that goes into getting a large following of social media, immediate account suspension with no explanation can cut off your source of income.
Kelly Pierce, secretary of the Guild, tweeted: “I don’t do full service sex work, if my job which is mainly webcam, clip sites, subscription picture sharing sites was CENSORED tomorrow. I WOULD BE OUT OF A JOB.”
I don't do full service sex work, if my job which is mainly webcam, clip sites, subscription picture sharing sites was CENSORED tomorrow. I WOULD BE OUT OF A JOB.
— mrskellypierce (@MrsKellyPierce) June 25, 2019
In April, Jezebel reported that an individual “anti-porn troll” Omid was responsible for reporting – and shutting down – more than 300 performers.
In the meeting last week, Instagram’s communications officer Stephanie Otway mentioned this case: “With the Omid case we looked at 300 accounts, [and] we found that there was a higher amount of removals than expected. Then we looked at the training material and we found that there was a language there that was nonspecific. Unclear language in the training was resulting in over-enforcing.”
It’s not just individuals who have been getting their accounts suspended, however. Sex toy manufacturer Lovense had its account deleted recently, and has only just had it reinstated, despite not posting any X-rated content.
We have lost our @instagram account for no reason, no explanation has been given. Why do we live in a society that shuns and tries to hide normal urges and desires? Anyway, here is an #infographic about us! #bringlovenseback pic.twitter.com/NsOoOJ3z4Y
— LOVENSE CAM MODELS (@CamModelToys) June 19, 2019
But this doesn’t seem to matter with individuals’ accounts either, with many performers’ accounts being taken off the site despite not posting nude images, or the famously-banned-on-Instagram nipple.
But celebrities, with their millions of followers, appear to get away with this content. In the meeting, Instagram’s public policy assistant manager Aparajitha Vadlamannati said this content is deemed OK as “if there’s an attempt to cover, we consider that as non-violating nudity.”
Instagram claims it's PG13, but allow Hollywood celebrities or those with a blue checkmark to post pornographic images for children to see..
— Adult Performers Actors Guild (@APAGunion) June 19, 2019
What’s happened so far
In March, Instagram announced a “sensitive content” filter, where it now blurs the images of posts reported by users that didn’t specifically violate the site’s terms.
However, just like many other user-generated content sites including YouTube and Facebook (which, of course, owns Instagram), these vague content guidelines can be confusing, with seemingly different rules for different users.
In April, the APAG Union posted a statement on their website announcing that they planned to challenge Instagram regarding the removal of hundreds of adult content profiles with a team of lawyers looking to create a class-action lawsuit. The page also included a sign-up form for union members to add their username handles and details about account removal to begin building up the case to take to Facebook HQ.
The statement read: “We have quickly found that most sex worker accounts, porn star accounts, and adult model accounts are deleted simply for existing! Many have been deleted for bikini photos, workout videos, and less, while celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, and countless other Instagram Verified celebrities, post images on a regular basis with full nudity, exposed nipples, bare backside and more. Each photo, with it’s millions of LIKES, contributes to those women’s already massive incomes, as well as Instagram’s own bank account.
A few months back, Vice reported that in an letter to Facebook on April 22, the Adult Performers Actors Guild’s legal counsel James Felton wrote:
“Over the course of the last several months, almost 200 adult performers have had their Instagram’s accounts terminated without explanation. In fact, every day, additional performers reach out to us with their termination stories. In the large majority of instances, her was no nudity shown in the pictures. However, it appears that the accounts were terminated merely because of their status as an adult performer.
Effort to learn the reasons behind the termination have been futile. Performers are asked to send pictures of their names to try to verify that the accounts are actually theirs and not put up by frauds. Emails are sent and there is no reply.”
Since April, the APAG Union has been helping people get their accounts back.
Alana Evans, chairman of the Union, shared this updated appeal form on her Twitter page that was proving successful for some users.
— Eve Batelle – JULY 1-7 OJAI, CA (@EveBatelle) June 9, 2019
Despite this helping some users to reclaim their accounts, Evans decided it was still necessary to go forward with the scheduled on June 19 to meet with Instagram executives and try and find some answers.
Following the meeting on June 19, where Vadlamannati confirmed that “humans will be reviewing the appeal process”, some accounts of high-profile adult film stars have been reinstated.
— Amber Lynn ® (@XXXAmberLynns) June 23, 2019
However, the Union has advised adult performers to avoid using adult links until a solution is found with Instagram…
Models who are worried about being deactivated at this time we warn you not to use any adult links, you may do so if you wish, but we are warning models not to….
We are working on fixing this with Instagram, but it has not changed yet on this issue. ~ KP
— Adult Performers Actors Guild (@APAGunion) June 25, 2019
…with many suspended account holders still waiting for answers.
I wish I knew what I did wrong. Instagram told me it was for sexual content but they never said what post was the straw the broke the camel’s back 😐
— Grace @ Otakon Prep!!! (@graceeventide) June 25, 2019