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Instagram to Update Nudity Policy After Plus-Sized Model Controversy


After coming under fire for its inconsistencies with how it handled photos of plus-sized model Nyome Nicholas-Williams on its platform, Instagram will update its policy on nudity.

Following a campaign launched in The Observer, the publication has confirmed that Instagram and its parent company Facebook will be updating its policy on nudity in order to curb discrimination of plus-sized black women on its platform.

In August, The Observer published an article alleging that Instagram was censoring images posted by Nyome Nicholas-Williams, known as CurvyNyome on Instagram. According to that article, Nicholas-Williams had uploaded a photo to the platform that depicted her with her arms folded across her breasts.

Within hours, Instagram deleted the photo and warned Nicholas-Williams that her account could be shut down, a feature added to the platform last year.

“Millions of pictures of very naked, skinny white women can be found on Instagram every day,” Nicholas-Williams said to The Observer. “But a fat black woman celebrating her body is banned? It was shocking to me. I feel like I’m being silenced.”

Nicholas-Williams was especially incensed when her problems came after Instagram leadership came out against bias and inequity. In June, CEO Adam Mosseri said he was “hearing concerns about whether we suppress black voices and whether our products and policies treat everyone equally” and that the company was ““Addressing the feedback we get has always been an integral part of how we work, and has helped us build a better Instagram for everyone.”

In July, the company’s Vice President of Product Vishal Shah promised to investigate its racist algorithms: “The racial justice movement is a moment of real significance for our company. Any bias in our systems and policies run counter to providing a platform for everyone to express themselves. While we’re always working to create a more equitable experience, we are setting up additional efforts to continue this progress.”

Nicholas-Williams alleged that what Instagram was saying publicly did not align with what was actually happening on the platform. The Observer reported that the company denied Nicholas-Williams had been racially discriminated against but confirmed that its former policy on “boob squeezing” had caused her photos to be removed.

A spokesperson from Instagram confirmed to The Observer 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.”

But after the outcry, Instagram is moving towards adjusting its algorithms and policy. “As we looked into this more closely, we realized it was an instance where our policy on breast squeezing wasn’t being correctly applied. Hearing Nyome’s feedback helped us understand where this policy was falling short, and how we could refine it.”

According to the Observer, the updates to the policy are being rolled out to both Facebook and Instagram and will begin to come into effect “this week.”

Nicholas-Williams sees this as a win and is reportedly “delighted” with the outcome. “This is a huge step and I am glad a dialogue has now been opened,” she told The Observer. “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.”

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