Instagram can bring many different emotions to the surface. For many, it’s a space to share, collaborate and document creativity. For these reasons, Instagram can be a beneficial and fun little place. But, on the flip side, Instagram’s algorithm can mistakenly hit back at creatives by removing, shadow banning and censoring accounts that don’t deserve it.
“It’s almost like you’ve just been ghosted by someone you’re in a relationship with, someone that you have put a lot of time, effort and thought into.”
This phenomenon is happening more and more often. It can take years to build up content, for it to be lost in a millisecond. It leaves you confused. It’s almost like you’ve just been ghosted by someone you’re in a relationship with, someone that you have put a lot of time, effort and thought into. All of a sudden the realisation that they’re gone slowly starts to sink in. Despite this, you still sit there blank and wait for something to flash up screaming “It was a mistake!”, in the hopes that they’ll take you back in an instant. Some creatives on Instagram manage to get that relationship back, whereas others are left in the darkness and proceed to then be ghosted by Instagram HQ itself.
It makes creatives feel powerless – and in less fortunate cases, at a loss. They might not have saved their content over the years, lulled into a false sense of security that Instagram would be its home. Despite Instagram’s policy stating that nudity in the form of art, and not photography, is allowed, creatives depicting (specifically the female form) nudity in their art are finding their accounts are getting blocked. With zero warning.
Instagram has been removing creative accounts for various different reasons, all surrounding sexual activity and nudity. These circumstances are becoming more and more WTF-worthy. Recently, Venus Libido, had her Instagram account removed for receiving unsolicited ‘dick pics’ in her DMs. You’d hope that this was a robot’s mistake rather than a human, because who would believe that vulnerable women in these circumstances are to blame? However, The New York Times revealed that there are in fact 15,000 people reviewing posts and disabling accounts on the social platform around the world. Accounts, such as @alphachanneling, have also had their art taken down in the past with zero warning, luckily, they were given back access after being able to prove they were abiding by the community guidelines. It’s a game of potluck.
Frieze revealed Instagram’s community guidelines, which state: ‘We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too.’
‘OK’ it seems, isn’t enough.
“In the words of Joanne Leah, “Every time something gets censored, it feels like a punch in the gut”. So, I am punching myself in the gut with every post.”
In my case, I woke up to the sad realisation that all of my hard work had diminished overnight. Nudes painted in oil and acrylic; there were no digitally created nudes to be found anywhere on my personal or my art accounts. My digital sketchbook and all my connections were gone and Instagram was, and still is, giving me the silent treatment. This is all despite the fact that my artwork is well within the so-called and much conflicted ‘community guidelines’. Emily Cain, a spokeswoman for Instagram, stated that “Paintings and sculptures (art) would NOT violate [the] community guidelines” – hmmm.
Rebuilding my creative diary on Instagram (@harliebriggsart_) has been tough and all paintings now have to be censored – by either blurring out the nipples or covering them with flowers. This takes away my artistic voice and feels like I’m being shamed into hiding my work. In the words of Joanne Leah, “Every time something gets censored, it feels like a punch in the gut”. So, I am punching myself in the gut with every post.
It’s widely understood that Instagram has to accommodate all of its users, including keeping children under the age of 18 safe. However, there are far more worrying things that children can get their hands on via Instagram – a nude created with a paintbrush should be the least of their worries. Instagram seems to turn a blind eye to porn, but a firm eye is, in my opinion, unfairly placed on nude artists.
The art of Sarah Whalen, a New York-based erotic artist, captures the primitive interactions that we can have with another human – sex and human intimacy. Again, pieces of art made by hand are well within Instagram’s community guidelines. Alas, her account was ripped away from her in 2017 and turned into digital dust. Despite sending numerous messages to Instagram, there was never any response. Speaking to Whalen, she resonated with my situation and insisted that the only reason her account was reactivated, after 4 months, was because of an article published online that called Instagram out. She went on to say, much like us all, “I truly do not understand the process”.
Perhaps, Instagram should be more black and white with their community guidelines and stick to them, as well as opening a customer service department to speak to the users, pay more attention to whether accounts fit within the guidelines and to fix mistakes.
Like myself, many hold onto the hope that, someday, women’s chests will not bear such a burden. That a nipple won’t need to be censored. Others hold onto the hope that their art accounts will not be taken down without warning – that they’ll be the lucky ones. And some are sat in the dark wondering if they will ever regain access to their art accounts. Until then, creatives all over the world share their work with apprehension, and the fear of being cut from the Instagram world altogether.