Artists Respond to Instagram Censorship of ‘Offensive’ Images

LOS ANGELES—A leading art publication, The Art Newspaper, reported this week that creators of erotic art remain frustrated by the social media platform Instagram, which has banned “offensive” artwork.

Even though Instagram bans “graphic content” by creative visual artists, the platform appears to permit envelope-pushing sexual material by its highly trafficked “influencers” and celebrities, the article notes. While artists and photographers are often prevented from displaying works depicting nudity, “Kim Kardashian can show her bare breasts without any problems at all,” according to the Art Newspaper report.

“Pictures that are deemed offensive typically fall into three categories: violent, shocking or sexually suggestive,” wrote Art Newspaper correspondent Aimee Dawson. “Artistic depictions of nudes regularly fall into the latter group, which—considering how foundational the practice is in the field—is a huge problem for art world Grammers.”

“Instagram is a two-headed monster,” said Jac Lahav, curator on the online exhibit Instagram’s Shadow. “One side is an amazing venue for visual creativity and community outreach. The other side is one of celebrity, excess, and a mainstream cis-sex-sells mentality.”

The online exhibit highlights artwork that has been “shadowbanned” by Instagram, along with text detailing the platform’s policies toward nudity and sexual images.

“Anti nudity policies have far reaching effects. Instagram bans genitalia and pubic hair for their ‘sexual nature,’ going against the historical artistic value found in the natural human form,” the exhibit’s text reads. “The nudity vs. obscenity conversation gets murkier because Instagram distinguishes between male and female nipples. Male nipples are allowed to be posted, but female nipples are banned.”

While some artists have taken to self-censoring their work, even those measures can still fall victim to the Instagram censorship algorithms, according to the publication.

“Self-censorship is not a failsafe solution. The artist @dirk_dzimirsky was blocked despite the fact he covers the nipples in his work,” Dawson wrote. “He says now he can’t even post links to non-nude art if there is nudity somewhere on that website."

Censorship and “shadowbanning” — the practice of quietly suppressing certain posts from appearing widely in user feeds — have long been all-too-familiar to adult industry Instagrammers, however. Last November, as AVN reported, more than 1,300 adult performers said that their Instagram accounts — which can be major sources of income and publicity — were simply deleted from the Facebook-owned platform without warning. 

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