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Women are Changing Their Gender to 'Male' on Instagram Bio to Avoid Sexist Shadow Bans

Marginalised and queer communities on Instagram have also spoken against its covert censorship.


Updated:November 22, 2019, 5:01 PM IST
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Women are Changing Their Gender to 'Male' on Instagram Bio to Avoid Sexist Shadow Bans
Representative Image. (Reuters)

Instagram's clapdown on what it deems as "sexual content" has led to women changing their bios to "male" in order to avoid alleged sexist shadow-banning on the platform.

Earlier in the year, the Facebook-owned platform reportedly started to employ shadow banning tactics to hide certain content from appearing on users' feeds and the hashtag and 'Explore' pages of Instagram. Accounts of women working as pole dancers, sex workers and fitness instructors were specifically affected as the content they post for promoting their work is often deemed to be "inappropriate".

In order to beat the algorithm in its own game, some women now have started changing the gender on their Insta bio to. A woman woks as a pole dancer and fitness expert told Huffpost that she decided to switch genders when her posts started to get less likes. Suspecting sexist shadow-banning, the woman switched her gender to "male" and her feed was back to normal withing just three days.

Despite criticism, Instagram has not yet revealed what it defines as "inappropriate" content except mentioning in its policies that "sexually suggestive" posts are not allowed. It has also denied using shadow banning to censor content. However, activists have been calling out the platform's tactics for over a year now.

View this post on Instagram

Hey everyone so unfortunately we have been shadow banned (again) by @instagram . So If you are seeing this please could you comment with “yes” and also share it on your stories. We have been promoting our next party and the likes to followers ratio has been off and as it turns out some people have not seen anything from us this month at all! This means that people don’t see the party flyers and miss out, people don’t see the takeovers and find more community, this means that all the work we put in to be shared with you all is not being seen. ———————————————————————————— Over the past few months certain images we post from our party have been getting removed so we started posting less party images. It’s bs that we have to “censor” ourselves and that @instagram is targeting the queer community. Specifically queer B/POC. If you have solutions on ways we can deal with this please DM us. This is now the SECOND time this year 😒 ————————————————————————— If you could share this post and also our recent artwork posts on our page we would greatly appreciate it. Thank you, PP xxx

A post shared by Pxssy Palace (@pxssypalace) on

Women are not the only ones affected by the new policies of "Remove Reduce and Inform" that Facebook adopted as part its community guidelines for its family of platforms including Instagram. And it also offers a wider explanation of what it considers as sexually inappropriate content. For example, it mentions nudity and excessive skin show as reasons for removing or hiding a post, and even uses photographs to explain to advertisers and users the different kinds of images that can violate the policy. these include artistic nudes, "implied nudity" and genitalia among others.

Marginalised and queer communities on the platforms have also spoken against Instagram's covert censorship. An analysis of Instagram's algorithm done by the inclusive online platform Salty found that posts from women of colour and queer users were the most censored. Plus sized women and body-positivity experts also often face the brunt of shadow-banning.

Recently, Instagram was called out for moral policing its users after it banned the use of "sexual" emojis such as peaches and water sprinkle emoji in contexts that could imply sexual activity.

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