Instagram is now ‘punishing’ users by taking away their link stickers

By Alma Fabiani

Published Oct 20, 2021 at 10:51 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

On Monday 18 October, Instagram started showing some users a popup message explaining that it will soon take away their ability to post links stickers, which many creators use to redirect their followers to other sites, digital stores and platforms where they can make money. “Instagram doesn’t allow adult content on its platform, but many adult content creators use it for promotional reasons, inviting their Instagram audience to follow them to other platforms or personal sites,” VICE noted.

“Starting on 25 October, you will no longer have access to the link sticker because you have shared content that violates our Community Guidelines,” the message says. Although Instagram claims users are adding links that do not comply with its Community Guidelines, many users who claim otherwise have no option to appeal this decision other than an “OK” button.

Link stickers are an option in Instagram’s ephemeral Stories feature where users can add an external link to their photo or video. In August 2021, Instagram removed the ability to link and send users off platform by swipe-ups and replaced it with a sticker, a small clickable icon that hovers over the image instead.

While many of the users who first started speaking out about this abrupt and inexplicable change were in the adult industry—sex workers are more often than not the first people to experience censorship and discrimination online—accounts that followed varied in what they post about. @Feminist, a popular Instagram account that has managed to build an impressive community of over 6.4 million users rooted in intersectional feminism, has also seen its link sticker get taken down.

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A post shared by Feminist (@feminist)

Although Instagram has yet to confirm a specific reason behind this recent ‘punishment’, it’s been noted that most accounts known for sharing petitions, links to crowdfunding platforms, or even to external resources have been impacted by the move. In a way, this links back to the alleged—although less intense—problem the popular ‘link in bio’ service Linktree was once witnessing.

If you’ve got your link sticker taken away too, and aren’t even sure of why, here’s what an Instagram spokesperson told VICE in a statement: “As part of our efforts to limit the spread of harmful content that violates our Community Guidelines, we’ll restrict people who have repeatedly or severely violated these policies from using the link sticker. However, we’re investigating an issue where people may have mistakenly been notified that they will be restricted, and we’re working on resolving this as soon as possible.”

In other news, the platform has also announced the launch of a new co-authoring feature called Collabs. “Now, instead of tagging your friend on a picture they helped shoot, you can invite them to be a collaborator and their username will appear in the post header alongside yours,” wrote Input Mag. The feature also applies to Reels. This addition could help people grow their audiences by piggybacking off more popular friends who might add them as a collaborator. Besides including a collaborator’s handle in the header, the post will also be shared across both users’ feeds and follower timelines. Both users will be able to monitor views, likes and comments in their notifications.

So, let us get this straight… Instagram still can’t be bothered to do something about the innumerable bigoted and harmful posts on its platform but it has time for a co-authoring feature and a half-assed algorithm that, in the end, penalises small content creators and sex workers? Sounds about right.

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