Censorship, Hypocrisy and Instagram

There’s a lot of censorship going on on instagram right now, and I have thoughts and a blog to revive, so lets get to it.


Since the dawn of the app instagram have been removing photographs featuring female nipples. Arguments are made in instagram’s community guidelines that the female nipple is ‘not appropriate for a diverse audience’. The community guidelines instagram has perpetrate the ingrained societal view that the female nipple is inherently sexual. But not the male nipple.

Obviously the most ingenious idea was to replace female nipples with male nipples, with Michol Hebron suggesting this idea back in June 2014. Interestingly enough, images that used Hebron’s idea of replacing female nipples with male nipples have now been removed by instagram. Many articles that displayed examples now show that instagram still removed these photos because nipples are offensive.

Many of us who do post nude photos to instagram take the risk of having our photo deleted, even when censoring genitals and nipples.

Some are finding clever ways to circumvent instagram’s archaic rules, such as @claudiasahuquillo. who uses the fact that Instagram is quite comfortable with photos of paintings and sculptures that display the female nipple. I struggle to find how instagram can draw the line between a painting or drawing or sculpture of a nipple and a photograph; is it because it is a photograph of a part of a woman’s body or is it because society views a female nipple as sexual? Lets be honest here, I’m sure that for some people it doesn’t matter how the nipple is depicted, be it through photography or drawing - someone is still going to masturbate to it. In the 1940’s Tom Poulton wasn’t just illustrating medical textbooks but creating erotica - there is a long history of individuals drawing erotic and pornographic material.


Instagram is a photo sharing app, one that businesses use to attract customers, and so it makes sense that those in sex work would utilise the app. But then instagram said, “Actually, no you can’t”, instagram states in the Community Guidelines that:

Offering sexual services, buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it’s legal in your region) is also not allowed.

‘Sexual services’ is a broad umbrella, but according to instagram, PornHub do not break their Community Guidelines but @katsandcrows, @tommyrose__ and a whole host of other sex workers do break their Guidelines. Which leads me to believe that these rules are arbitrary (and more on that in a bit).

Sex work is real work, and these individuals that are being targeted are not posting anything more explicit than Porn Hub, Liberator, or Love Honey. In fact, the Liberator and Love Honey accounts both break instagram’s community guidelines with their depictions of sexual positions:

We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks.

I am no prude, I don’t believe that sex workers should be removed from instagram, and I don’t actually believe that images of sexual positions should be removed either, but I do believe that if instagram is going to set a standard, everyone should be held to that standard, including multi-national companies. @katsandcrows made an excellent point in Refinery29, that sex sells, and any savy company will use that to it’s advantage.


View this post on Instagram

I have been so insanely overwhelmed with all the beautiful messages you guys are sending and seeing the same thing happen to so many other strong amazing people has really got me thinking... @instagram - you’ve taken it too far. On trying to eliminate pro self harm and suicidal accounts, you’ve eliminated all the ones who are pure and good too. I never said I was better. I can’t just be fixed, it doesn’t work like that... Believe me if it did I would have god damn tried! I just want to help people grow through their darkness... grow WITH their darkness. This is why I’m going to start a hashtag... it will be #youcantcensormyskin Please support me on fighting back and use the hashtag on pictures and videos you’ve been too scared to share because of judgement, things you’ve been told by society is wrong and not beautiful therefore not acceptable, of things you’ve overcome in your life... I want to show that life CONTINUES with these things, we are real people with real problems. Why should we be censored for our past, for our bodies... for our skin? I will not conform to these social ideals and what the worlds deems as beautiful. People are being deleted and censored for being themselves and not covering up and hiding away? It’s not right. I want to help people, not hurt them. I want to show a real life, with a real past not the fake shit spewed our in the media. So please use the hashtag #YOUCANTCENSORMYSKIN to help 🖤💕🖤💕

A post shared by baby chlo ☆.。 (@_chl.o) on

A few months back I photographed @_chl.o. It was a good time, it was fun - we made some pretty wonderful images. And, surprise surprise, instagram don’t like them.

This is a direct action by instagram following the tragic story of Molly Russell who took her own life in 2017 after viewing images of self harm on instagram.

As someone who did self harm for many years, and looked at images of self harm before the days of instagram, I can understand the removal of fresh wounds - what I don’t understand is the removal of images that do not glorify or romanticise self harm.

I have photographed many an individual with scars, both self inflicted and otherwise. Those with scars that I have photographed are recovering, and to censor their bodies removes examples that there is recovery after self harm.

In trying to protect some, they are removing positive examples of people moving forward with their lives, and sending a message that visible scars are in someway unacceptable.

And yet again instagram show that they are arbitrarily removing these images, I can post the same image that I took of @_chl.o as she does, and hers gets deleted, whereas mine sails hidden from the prying eyes of instagram. Although I’m not actively trying to have my images removed, that they would treat us both so differently due to followers is telling.

It’s the same hypocrisy that allows a pornsite to have an account whereas a sex worker can’t.

The beautiful Sophie Mayanne who created the Behind The Scars project, is now also featuring censorship on facebook. Mayanne as yet to receive an explanation for this. I can only summarise that this is linked to instagram cracking down on any and all images of self harm.


As you can imagine, those of us affected by these indiscriminate rules are pushing back, we are requesting clarification and answers. There are individuals championing for change, @katsandcrows created a petition here, @_chl.o started the hashtag #youcantcensormyskin. There are many more hashtags and accounts springing up to challenge the new status quo.

In filtering out these accounts that instagram deem unacceptable, we are shown a diluted and sanitised version of life, when in actual fact, all bodies should be celebrated, nipples and all, that sex work is work, and there is a market for that, that skin is skin and censoring that reduces people to a scar.

In removing images of us, instagram throws a whole lot of people into the ‘inappropriate’ category. This message is being sent to so many, that their bodies, their scars, their lives are not worth sharing, because they may be a sex worker, because they may have a scar.

In some ways, instagram’s deleting spree highlights the need for a different picture sharing app that is not so strictly policed, although the last one I heard of Vero Social, appeared to fall flat on it’s face, and demonstrated how difficult it would be to create a service that can rival instagram. (As an aside, Vero does appear to have updated it’s privacy policy but you now might have a to pay a fee).

This dilution of who is allowed to share images on instagram is sad, really, (and not ‘ha-ha’ sad), I can’t be the only one left out in the cold feeling unable to relate to images because they’re so sanitised?