Instagrams strict, but largely unclear rules against explicit and suggestive content are a big problem for many performers in the erotic and porn industry. Accounts developed over the years are getting blocked or lose their visibility. This costs many members of the community substantial income and opportunities. Most affected: Women, whose frequently very openly displayed skin is benefiting the social media giant otherwise quite a lot.
Since early this year, the shock waves of increasing censorship efforts in the USA against erotic and pornographic content are being felt on social media and major Internet platforms. Instagram, in particular, which was once used by porn actresses and erotic models, made it difficult for many actresses to continue their laboriously established followership with arbitrary account closures and so-called shadowbans. Now, many of them fight back with a simple trick that exposes the simplistic prejudices of the Facebook subsidiary Instagram: they change their gender from female to male in their accounts’ profile details.
In April, Instagram began taking action against accounts that publish “inappropriate” content. Unfortunately, the terms and conditions left open exactly what the company understood by this vague term: a difficult situation for erotic stars and porn actors all over the world, who for years had relied on the picture-hungry and smarter Facebook sister to reach their fans.
As a result, women, in particular, are now affected by the new directive. In contrast to men, female erotic models and sex workers cannot show as much skin on social media. After all, the female nipple is censored – sometimes even if only suggestive – but the male nipple is not. A harsh restriction that costs visibility and therefore attention and, ultimately, income in the event of the slightest error or violation of the unclear rules.
A simple trick has therefore spread among the affected members of the community, which demonstrates how limited and discriminatory Instagram is in enforcing its new policy, because apparently the accounts of female influencers are much more often regarded as problematic by the algorithm, which is likely to lead to a substantially more frequent implementation of shadowbans and account suspensions. It seems to be helpful to carry out a gender change in the settings. Male profiles are much less likely to be shadow-banned and remain more visible.
Particularly affected are sex workers and models who have no star status, including strippers and newcomers to the industry. Often the account holders at Instagram don’t even know that they are affected by a shadowban. They only notice that their likes and also overall interactions with their posts are declining. Often they are helpless in the face of the problem and start blaming themselves.
The fact that the shadowban can be circumvented with a simple change from female to male shows how discriminatory and simple-minded the influential company is.
One stripper reported that her visibility immediately returned to previous levels when she changed her account to »male«. »Many of us within the pole dancing community rely on Instagram to thrive. We use Instagram to share training videos, connect with new people and, for lots of us, to grow our businesses. It’s ridiculous that we have to resort to trying this kind of thing.«
Besides the absurd prudery and hypocrisy, there also remains a fundamental problem of how to recognize and assess sexually charged content. After all, every fitness and even book influencer also works with his or her sex appeal. What is erotic? And is erotic always »inappropriate«? For a company that offers no content of its own and derives its entire brand value from the work of others and at the same time is quasi-monopoly, it is an incomprehensible impudence to set arbitrary standards that offer no reliability whatsoever.
It is symptomatic that Instagram’s response to a HuffPost reporter’s inquiry as to which content is to be understood as »sexually suggestive« is silence. No answer or explaining whatsoever. Instead, Facebook claims that the algorithm doesn’t take gender into account for either FB or Instagram when categorizing for increased shadowban likelihood.
The nameless Facebook spokesperson claims: »Gender information from profiles has no impact on content we filter from hashtags or the Explore page. We want to make sure the content we recommend to people on Instagram is safe and appropriate for everyone. Ensuring women feel heard is an essential part of that effort.«
Not much to work with for affected sex workers and erotic models who have lost access to their followers and hence suffered a loss in their income. It also remains questionable to what extent the statements of a company can be trusted, that has sold user data on a large scale to advertising partners, knowingly concealed the extent and plunged democracies in several Western countries into turmoil.