Meta suspends account of Trans March organiser after queer casting call post reported for human exploitation

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published Jul 4, 2024 at 01:02 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

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Meta is stirring controversy once again. This time by suspending the Instagram account of Niko Storment, a creative producer and organiser for the San Francisco Trans March. The tech company followed through on this suspension based on allegations of supposed “human exploitation.” Storment’s Instagram account focuses on connecting trans and queer artists with job opportunities in the arts and creative sectors.

Storment’s account was shut down after he posted a casting call for trans and queer models and performers, including one that sought queer Asian American and Pacific Islander models for a paid opportunity. Storment, who also manages the San Francisco Trans March account, expressed frustration over the accusations and the impact on their community outreach efforts.

During an interview with The Daily Dot, Storment stated: “I’m not a human trafficker. The only thing that I could think of that would be seen like that is the fact that we hire pretty much all queer and trans people.” Shortly after, screenshots provided to the Daily Dot revealed these casting calls, including one for a music video featuring trans singer Carter Ray.

Storment suspects that mass reporting might have triggered the suspension and speculates that the account’s support for Palestine could have also been a factor. Storment’s frustration was palpable, as these suspensions undermined his efforts to connect trans and queer artists with vital job opportunities.

Despite appealing the decision, Storment was met with repeated accusations from Meta. During the interview with the publication, the producer also stated: “This conflation [of sex work] and regulation around trans people working … is honestly really appalling and disgusting.” Storment also highlighted past challenges, such as being denied event insurance due to misconceptions about their activities. Storment’s experience underscores ongoing struggles against algorithmic bias and the stigmatisation of trans and queer professionals.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that we’ve heard about Meta suppressing queer-led accounts. In 2021, Instagram censored @Autogyniphiles_Anonymous, a trans-led meme account with 26,000 followers, after it was mass-reported. Similarly, Mashable reported last year that Instagram shadow-banned LGBTQ accounts, preventing their content from appearing on their followers’ feeds.

Storment and his peers have long faced the challenge of dispelling the misconception that trans people only engage in sex work.

“The first time I ever tried to get event insurance, I spent about an hour on the phone with the guy. He essentially heard what we did and denied us insurance because he thought I was basically a pimp,” Storment shared in the interview. This was “based solely on the fact we work with dancers, trans women, and burlesque performers,” he continued.

These repeated incidents underscore the ongoing challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ creators and activists on platforms like Instagram under Meta’s oversight.  As long as algorithmic biases and misconceptions persist, we’ll likely continue to see similar controversies affecting marginalised communities in the digital sphere.

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