• Françesca Alessandro

Instagram Policing Our Bodies

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

Freedom of speech is something that I think is really important especially giving an equal voice to those who are normally ignored, obviously there are limits to freedom of speech when it comes to the internet. Although if what is being said is being said purely to cause harm to others then it shouldn't be allowed to be viewed so widely as it is on social media. But it appears like talking or creating conversation around sex and nudity is more unacceptable than many forms of hate speech.

Especially on social media where Nazi and White Supremacists are allowed to speak so freely and spread such unimaginable hate to so many impressionable people. I've reported pages on Facebook that have shown mosque burnings and other hateful imagery, to which Facebook responds saying they found nothing that goes against their policy on the page. Does Facebook lack a policy on hate speech? No, in fact as part of it's advertising it tries to convey itself as an inclusive and supportive network, yet it fails to achieve this. It seems impossible for me to post uncensored images on either network without being reported and taken down, so how is it that the reporting policy is so effective on female nude images but ineffective on hate speech/imagery.

Is there more of a blurred line in what is and isn't hate speech compared to what is and isn't nude? Both are relatively complex, depending on political views and cultural views. In one of my denied promotions on Instagram, "excessive skin shown" was put down as a reason why it was denied publication. excessive skin is a very ambiguous term what do you define as excessive skin would it mean people with more skin can show less of it, who determines its definition. What is deemed as nude or indecent can be as much as a shoulder or neckline to some people. In the UK where nude and bikini imagery is often seen in advertising. Surely too much skin or nudity is just a nipple and vagina to much, so where are they drawing this line.

"We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures and other art that depicts nude figures." (Facebook Policy 14. Adult nudity and sexual activity, click here, accessed: 18/11/2018)

This is a line from Facebooks policies (which seem to be what you get directed to by Instagram now). They claim to allow imagery of nudity in art, which I have seen. There are tattoos that show photorealist vaginas, paintings that show orgies, plenty of art is allowed. Does this mean Facebook does not accept photography as an art form, for a long time photography has fought to be seen as equal to any other art medium, from Stieglitz's gallery 291, through movements like pictorialism, and modernism which I would say is when photography really found itself a part or the art would. The Bauhaus produced many influential photographers; considering the Bauhaus was an important part of the European art world their inclusion of photography shows acceptance of it as an art form. Not to mention photographic works selling for millions of dollars in auctions, I can create a reading list for Facebook if they need to learn more about photography as an art form. Also as an artist who works on Analogue mediums all of my work is a digital photograph of my work either as scans of prints or film.

Facebook doesn't allow appeals of accounts that break policy violation, yet expects me to follow policy, when it either contradicts itself or is too ambiguous to be able to have a clear understanding of it's definition. Especially when it states that artists can post nude figures, yet deletes many photographic art works, why am I unable to fight back and talk through the policies I either haven't broken at all or in my understanding of the definition haven't broken. They don't seem to allow you any access to the information from you account as they say that they can not recover deleted accounts from policy violation, so you immediately lose everything you've worked hard building as an artist when they delete your account even if you haven't technically violated the policy.

There have been cases of celebrities and artists regain access to their accounts but only from media interest or from legal action against the company. So they clearly do keep the information after they delete it, it just means artists who are still trying find themselves in the art world are more disadvantaged by their policies. It's also creating different rules for the rich and famous compared to the ordinary users who have less of a following, although as Instagram now orders feeds based on the amount of impressions a posts receives the playing field on the site is clearly very uneven already.

One of the reason Instagram is so strict on it's policy around nudity is because it may offend some viewers, now I understand some people may be uncomfortable with nudity which is a shame that they would feel that way, but I wouldn't force people to see my work if they weren't comfortable with it. If instagram is so concerned about sensitive users, would it not be simpler and more effective to use a similar system to Tumblr which employs a safe mode for users to use, either allowing or removing NSFW posts from their feeds. You can even have this switched on immediately for those under the age of 18 years old, which would help ease the minds of some parents. Although when the education system is so terrible around sex education, the internet does play a huge part in educating them, it would be important to keep educational information available to all ages.

The direction that our society is moving towards is one of less censorship and more of an openness around sexuality, hopefully this will begin to be reflected in our social media. For now we still have to appeal(when possible) and protest these policies, show that we are free to express ourselves however we want and create conversation around the way we our policed by social media.

I have included screenshots of the policy violations I have received through both my Instagram and my Facebook accounts.

For more information about my work that led to my account being deleted off of Instagram click here, I will be creating as many Alessa accounts as I have to, so that my work remains visible to those who it can help empower. And as my work is a photograph of an artwork I guess I'll stop censoring it, I'll post on here and my other Instagram account @francescabartist when it is live!

Thanks for the support,

I would still like to get my old account back if anyone is able to help me, email me at francescaalessandro@outlook.com

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