Instagram’s nudity policy has been a talking matter for quite a few years already. Alas, after years of controversy and unfair censorship, Instagram (and therefore Facebook) has announced that it will finally update its policy on nudity. Why now?
In August 2020, Instagram was accused of censoring and silencing black plus-size model Nyome Nicholas-Williams after she posted photographs of her sitting on a chair, wearing cycling shorts, and covering her breasts with her arms. The pictures were removed from the social media platform for allegedly “violating the platform’s semi-nudity guidelines.”
Even before this occurrence, Instagram had been accused of repeatedly discriminating against black people, plus-size users, and other marginalised communities, by deleting their photos while allowing similar pictures of semi-naked skinny white women on its feeds.
After the platform deleted Nicholas-Williams’ post, content creators showed the model support by creating the petition titled Stop Instagram from censoring fat Black women, which so far has received more than 22,000 signatures and is aiming to get 25,000. The controversy also caused fans to protest and post pictures of the model en masse under the hashtag #IWantToSeeNyome.
On top of that, fellow black plus-size influencer Stephanie Yeobah raised the issue to Instagram directly on her behalf and activist Gina Martin, who previously protested for the vital law against upskirting, helped amplify the cause. This wave of support even reached the streets of London where graffiti was painted across the walls of the capital.
According to the Guardian, Facebook, which is Instagram’s parent company, denied that Nicholas-Williams had been racially discriminated against, and instead explained that its former policy on “boob squeezing” had caused her photos to be removed.
A spokesperson from Instagram first explained why pictures of Nicholas-Williams were originally taken down: “We do not allow breast squeezing because it can be most commonly associated with pornography.”
However, Instagram then changed its point of view (probably after seeing the wave of protest that resulted from the silencing of the plus-size model) and stated: “As we looked into this more closely, we realised it was an instance where our policy on breast squeezing wasn’t being correctly applied. Hearing Nyome’s feedback helped us understand where this policy was falling short, and how we could refine it.”
As a result, the new updated policy on nudity will apply across Instagram and Facebook and should come into effect as early as this week. After hearing the news, Nicholas-Williams wrote on Instagram: “We have put our heart and souls into this campaign and to see it come to fruition is insane!”
She added: “There’s still a lot of work to be done, as black plus-sized women continue to be censored in many ways; and white women STILL tried to hijack and make it their campaign. There is of course a huge racial imbalance in the algorithm that still exists as white bodies are promoted and don’t have to worry about censorship of their posts but black bodies still have to justify presence on the platform, this has also been brought to Instagrams attention! But when we put our minds to it… we can achieve literally ANYTHING!!”