Nyome Nicholas-Williams Wins The Battle Against Censorship And Instagram Updates Its Policy On Nudity
“I want to ensure that I am respected and allowed to use spaces like Instagram, as many other creators do, without the worry of being censored and silenced.”
While going on our Instagram feeds, we regularly come across semi-naked slender Caucasian women. Yet, things seem to be a little bit different, when dealing with coloured women, plus-size users and other marginalised groups. Following last August Nyome Nicholas-Williams’ controversy, Instagram and its parent company, Facebook, have updated their policy on nudity. Their new rules aim to tackle the discrimination experienced by many on social media, in order to ensure that all body types are equally treated.
When it comes to nudes and sexual images, Instagram, like most social media platforms, monitors its content and observes certain community guidelines. However, recently some have alleged the social media algorithm and its policy to be inherently race biased and discriminatory toward non-conventional body shapes. The policy officially forbids “close-up of fully exposed buttocks” but also “bare female nipples.” Yet, on several occasions pictures of naked women showing their curves and bumps or covering their busts were removed. It is well known that Instagram is a battlefield. And when a controversy is raised, it is dealt with through hashtag bullets.
It all started with a casual interview during which plus-size Black model Nyome Nicholas-Williams confessed to the Observer that her nude photos were repeatedly deleted by Instagram and she was warned that her account could be closed down. Soon after, social media arena spoke, creating the #IWantToSeeNyome.
“Millions of pictures of very naked, skinny white women can be found on Instagram every day. But a fat black woman celebrating her body is banned? It was shocking to me. I feel like I’m being silenced,” Nicholas-Williams said .
To respond to the increasing backlash from its users, Instagram and Facebook’s new policies on nudity now allow “content where someone is simply hugging, cupping or holding their breasts.” An Instagram representative told Business Insider that hearing Nicholas-Williams’ feedback helped them to understand where their policy was falling short, and how they could refine it.
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📢Today is the day Instagram and Facebook changes their policy to ensure all body types- namely black plus sized bodies- are treated fairly on the platforms. As of today, Wednesday 28th October 2020, Instagram and Facebook will “allow content where someone is simply hugging, cupping or holding their breasts”. To protect the younger users from potential pornographic content if a picture shows “breast squeezing in a grabbing motion or there is a clear change in the shape of the breasts”, that content will be in breach of the rules. This policy change should allow them to better differentiate self expression/ art from pornographic content. The policy change is effective from today and will begin to be enforced from today however the external wording in the policy will be available to read from the 23rd November (I will pop the link in my bio so you can all have a read of it once live). Gina, Alex, and I are creating a typeform where you can upload info on any of your content that has been removed. This is in the interest of helping instagram ensure this policy is upheld and is as successful as it can be. The link will be available tomorrow to use in my bio (we are hoping it won’t be needed though). This is only the beginning, there is still much work to be done. Instagram and Facebook are taking steps in the right direction to ensure the plus sized community is protected, Instagram have said “In addition to this policy change, earlier this year we committed to broader equity work to help ensure we better support the Black community on our platform. This work is going to take some time, but we’re going to continue to provide updates. Our goal is that this work will get us closer to making sure Instagram is a place where everyone feels safe, supported, and free to express themselves”, I will continue to hold Instagram to account to ensure this happens.. This is a huge victory for the black plus sized community and a great early birthday present! Thank you to every single one of you who reposted, or used the iwanttoseenyome hashtag; you helped amplify our voices and pushed our campaign forward.
Nicholas-Williams’ story sadly echoes other recent debates. Last March, American singer Lizzo complained about TikTok removing videos of her wearing bikinis. And more recently, Australian comedian Celeste Barber created a buzz after posting a parody photograph of South African Victoria Secret’s model, Candice Swanepoel, to denounce fatphobia based censorship.
Overall, Instagram and Facebook policy update is a huge step forward in the struggle against body type and colour biased discriminations on social media. But there is still a lot of work to be done, as we are reminded by Nicholas-Williams. “Black, plus-size women continue to be censored in many ways; and white women STILL tried to hijack it and make it their campaign.” We can only hope that this new step will significantly enlarge the dialogue over inclusivity and diversity on social media platforms.
– Anaïs N’déko
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