Instagram to free (some) nipples, as board calls nudity policy ‘discriminatory’


Instagram is expected to showcase a whole lot more nipples, following its parent company Meta’s independent Oversight Board declaring the photo-sharing app’s adult nudity policy “discriminatory” and “unworkable”.

Female nipples are banned from Instagram and the rule is pretty rigorously enforced, with the app’s chiefs keen to keep sexually explicit content off the platform. However, the Oversight Board has advised Meta to update this aspect of its adult content nudity policy, to make it more gender-inclusive.

Rather than allowing all female nipples to be shown on the platform, however, the board has advised Instagram to allow non-binary people’s nipples to be shown, as well as male nipples, which are already allowed. It said that non-binary nipples being able to be shown on the platform was a human rights issue.

The Oversight Board, which features lawyers, academics and human rights experts, said that the current female nipple ban hindered gender inclusivity for women, intersex, transgender and nonbinary people. It called the current policy “discriminatory” and said it needed to be changed “so that it is governed by clear criteria that respect international human rights standards”.

“Such an approach makes it unclear how the rules apply to intersex, non-binary and transgender people, and requires reviewers to make rapid and subjective assessments of sex and gender, which is not practical when moderating content at scale.”

Meta has 60 days to respond to the board’s recommendations, and is yet to say whether it will act on them. However, the organization will be under pressure to act or risk undermining the point of the independent board.

Making the declaration on January 17, 2022, the board said that the nipple-related rules needed updating for the sake of clarity, as well as inclusiveness.

“The restrictions and exceptions to the rules on female nipples are extensive and confusing, particularly as they apply to transgender and non-binary people. Exceptions to the policy range from protests, to scenes of childbirth, and medical and health contexts, including top surgery and breast cancer awareness,” the board said.

The board concluded that current exceptions are ill-defined, and lead to confusion. “The lack of clarity inherent in this policy creates uncertainty for users and reviewers, and makes it unworkable in practice,” it said. 

Mainstream social media platforms tend to be pretty strict about sexual content and nudity, with Facebook, also owned by Meta, operating similar nudity policies to Instagram. Twitter is an exception, for now.

Don’t expect Instagram to become a hotbed of sexualized content quite yet, but similarly don’t bet against a mass unleashing of #nonbinarynipples on the platform some time soon.

Read next: Instagram nudity blocker could mean an end to unsolicited dick pics (hopefully)

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Jamie F

Jamie F

Jamie is a freelance writer, contributing to outlets such as The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, CNN and Vice.

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