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Instagram censorship: Who are the guidelines really there to protect?

Instagram censorship
(Image credit: Digital Camera World)

Photographers all over the world have likely come under scrutiny at one point or another due to Instagram’s stringent censorship rules. Anything from art nude photos featuring a female nipples to posts regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict, and now posts about abortion pills are being removed from the social media platform. But who is Instagram looking to protect, and how do its censorship guidelines affect the people who use the platform?

I’ve experienced the authoritarian manner of Instagram censorship for images I would never consider rude or risqué. A slight slip of a nipple is all it takes these days for Instagram to remove the post and send a message saying your post goes against community guidelines. 

Censorship aside, what are the best cameras for Instagram? (opens in new tab)

In short, as listed on the Instagram Help page, the community guidelines state, "We want Instagram to continue to be an authentic and a safe place for inspiration and expression. Help us foster this community. Only post your own photos and videos and always follow the law. Respect everyone on Instagram, don't spam people or post nudity."

Often when people make repeat offenses they are 'shadow banned' – a term that means your posts are hardly seen and you can’t interact with other people's posts. It might seem like a small price to pay, but Instagram targets the same groups of people – those who speak out against conflict, disagree with the government or who share images that Instagram deems inappropriate. 

Recently the British-born, Swedish-based photographer adeY published a book (opens in new tab) that challenges Instagram’s censorship guidelines. Uncensored is a collection of non-sexual, nude photos explaining the human body’s strength, physics and ability to balance. Rather than placing emphasis on the fact people are naked, adeY wants to encourage people to be more open and look beyond the societal constraints of what the naked form means. 

In the latest Instagram censorship scandal, it looks like posts about abortion pills are now being censored as they – ostensibly – fall into a category that bans the sale, and purchase of trade of pharmaceuticals. Obviously Last Friday the Supreme Court decided to overturn the Roe vs Wade ruling that guaranteed a Constitutional right to abortion. It is now expected that 26 conservative states such as Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama will ban abortions, making this life-changing procedure much harder to obtain. 

By censoring posts around the topic of abortion, Instagram and Facebook (which are both owned by Meta) are showing a complete lack of support and care for the young girls and women who may need to access those services.

According to the Associated Press (opens in new tab), posts about the sale of guns and marijuana still manage to squeeze through the censorship gates. So why is it so different for prescribed abortion pills? It seems the more Meta does to “protect” the people who use the platform, the more it does to harm and alienate people who need to access correct information and offer support. 

This latest court overruling is devastating for young women and children who have become pregnant through no choice of their own, and Instagram's reaction to the Supreme's Court decision shows that it is once against seemingly siding with the wrong team. Is this another reason for me to hate Instagram? Yes, it absolutely is. 

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Hannah Rooke
Hannah Rooke

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.