Imagine disappearing from over half of your followers’ feeds overnight.
Take for example, Pxssy Palace — a popular queer arts collective and club in London. Despite having 28k+ followers on Instagram, the account has suffered a sharp decline in likes and comments. While posts tallied over 1.5k likes in August, if the account were to post today, they’d be lucky to crack 300 likes.
The account is the latest victim of Instagram’s discriminatory practice known as shadowbanning.
It’s when a user’s content on social media is hidden from their followers without the user’s knowledge. Most aren’t even aware it’s happening until they see the negative impact on their metrics. Users who fall victim to this policy have not explicitly violated Instagram’s “Community Guidelines”, but evidently have angered the app’s higher-ups in some way. Instead of removing posts outright, Instagram strategically hides them from the public – an effective social block.
What’s worse, this censorship policy disproportionately targets accounts run by sex workers, queer people, and anyone whose content is deemed “unacceptable” under Instagram’s very vague and large netcast. “The algorithm is complicit of digital racism and capitalist exploitation,” says Céline Semaan, founder of The Slow Factory.
Why is Instagram further marginalizing already vulnerable digital voices?
It remains mostly unclear, but may have something to do with FOSTA-SESTA – a controversial bill passed in 2018 which aims to limit sex trafficking but has also negatively impacted consensual sex workers.
Regardless, censorship of marginalized communities and queer online presence is a huge step back for the platform. Is Instagram employing a normcore, ultra-conformist approach to the content it so “generously” pseudo-allows on its platform? In a world that already intensely scrutinizes marginalized people and their varied forms of expression, pushing back against censorship is crucial.
Who is Instagram really protecting by censoring people’s bodies, sexualties and voices — other users or their own corporate interests?