When Instagram’s Censorship Laws Prove To Be Hurting Body Image


See this picture above? Apparently Instagram deemed it “inappropriate” and that it violated its Terms of Service. The problem with that is there are TONNES of pictures of women in bra and panties that still exist on the social media photo sharing app, yet they have not removed. So what is the conundrum here? The picture above, of user Samm Newman, happens to show a plus size woman’s body which apparently other users thought was offensive and reported it to be removed.

Instagram has a very strict policy on nudity, especially when it comes to babies and children, in an attempt to protect their users and themselves from any potential law suits and child pornography scandals. Good! That makes sense. But what doesn’t, is when there is a blatant disregard for different body shapes and sizes. While Instagram relies on its user to flag and report photos, it is down to someone at the actual company to decide whether a photo should be removed once and for all, or in the case of Rihanna, have an account disabled permanently.

In Ri-Ri’s case, she blatantly went against the laws of nudity and was punished for it. Fair enough. But why was Samm Newman’s picture categorized as inappropriate?

“I’m a big girl, I’m proud, and I post lots of body love,” the 19 year-old Ohio teen told her local news station who covered the story. Samm had been bullied all through her high school years, and only found confidence in her body after joining Instagram where she joined body positivity movements which used the hashtags #bodylove and #pizzasisters4lyfe.

When her account was disabled, Newman started to do her own investigation after Instagram said she violated their guidelines, and came to the conclusion it was blatant discrimination. She found when she searched under the #bodylove hashtag, there were plenty of other women in their underwear posing in even more risque positions than her, she was outraged that her size 24 body was singled out.

She decided to contact her local news station about the story not just because she lost her Instagram account, but because of the contradictory message it sends to other young women. Below is a screenshot Samm snapped before her entire account got shut down, so she could show the media that her photo is a lot more tame than the photos they allow.


“All my life, I was told to suck it in, and I would see these commercials on TV every day of these Victoria Secret models who weighed just nothing,” Newman said. “As comfortable as I was with myself, I wasn’t comfortable with my body, and that was a really huge drawback.”

“We have to face bullying our whole lives, and we finally get to a place where we have a voice,” Newman said. “And they are shutting us down again.”

Thanks to Samm’s courage to contact the press, her story was picked up by other magazines and TV stations, which clearly must’ve reached the ears of Instagram’s photo police. They decided to re-instate her account and apologized for the mishap.

“We are truly sorry for our mistake here. When reviewing reported content from the Instagram community, we don’t always get it right. As soon as we were made aware, we restored the content,” was the message she received. It sounds familiar.

Remember the story of Youtuber and singer Meghan Tonjes who had the same thing happen to her? Meghan also posted a photo of her fully-covered bootay, but she also happens to be a plus size chicky who felt discriminated against when her account was disabled. After rallying her online community and even making a Youtube video about it, Instagram apologized, gave her access to her account again and admitted they “don’t always get it right.”

Mommy blogger Alexis Sassard from Texas has had 3 of her Instagram accounts shut down temporarily because anonymous followers have been reporting photos of her unclothed toddler and breastfeeding pics. She started an online petition to get Instagram to change their censorship laws, saying motherhood is being shamed online. While Instagram is a privately owned company and the app is free, they most likely won’t change their terms to suit anyone.

The issue is much bigger than just a social media app. It’s the portrayal of women’s bodies and how we as a society have gotten so used to seeing one type as “acceptable” and “beautiful”, we get our trigger fingers ready the moment we see anything outside that spectrum.

The importance of Meghan and now Samm’s stories going viral is to send a message. Not just to Instagram or body-shamers, but to men and women who are looking to communities to find their voice and confidence. The moral of the story is to speak up and not be afraid to stand out. Today it is Instagram, tomorrow it could be something else. Censorshop of bodies, when displayed in a discriminatory, contradictory way is only going to end badly.

We salute all those women and men in the world who don’t sit around using the internet to become trolls, rather use it to make a difference and challenge the negative perceptions and norms which exist.

Check out Samm’s interview with the WFSB Eyewitness news below and hear what she had to say about the Instgram censorship debacle:

WFSB 3 Connecticut


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