“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.”
A few months ago, plus-size model and activist Nyome Nicholas-Williams spoke out about how Instagram was repeatedly taking down images from a “confidence shoot” she had posed for. Both she and the photographer, Alexandra Cameron, say they also received warnings that their accounts would be closed down. So they wrote a letter to Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, and eventually the platform responded by updating their nudity policy.
The photos in question showed Nicholas-Williams with her eyes closed and wrapping an arm around her breasts, which Instagram claims violated their pornography guidelines. Both Nicholas-Williams and Cameron allege that Instagram has a history of “allowing” nude photos of thin white women while censoring images of plus-size models and people of colour. According to the Guardian, “a wave of content creators then confirmed the platform was repeatedly discriminating against Black people, plus-size users and other marginalised communities, by deleting their photos or failing to promote them in the same way it did for its white users.”
In an interview with the Observer in August, Nicholas-Williams said: “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.”
A spokesperson from Instagram said to the Guardian that pictures of Nicholas-Williams were originally taken down as “we do not allow breast squeezing because it can be most commonly associated with pornography.”
Cameron, who has been a photographer for over a decade, said: “I have posted photos of many more women – white women – who had [fewer] clothes on than Nyome that never got reported or deleted. This was the first time it happened to me, and it kept happening because I kept reposting the pictures and they kept getting deleted, and you have to ask why. What is it about a plus-size Black woman’s body that is so offensive and so sexualised? The Playboy feed is filled with naked white models and it’s all for the male gaze, which is the opposite of what I do, and they’re allowed to stay.”
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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.
A post shared by Nyome Nicholas – Williams (@curvynyome) on
Following Nicholas-Williams and Cameron’s open letter to the platform’s head (written in conjunction with activist Gina Martin) and a groundswell of social media support, Instagram and its parent company Facebook have updated their policy on nudity in order to help end discrimination of plus-size Black women on its platforms and ensure all body types are treated fairly. The new policy came into effect last week.
“This is a huge step and I am glad a dialogue has now been opened,” said Nicholas-Williams. “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.”