Why The Instagram Algorithm Is banning Your Posts

Frustrated with Instagram banning your content? You’re not the only one. If you’re a dancer of sorts, a pole dancer, an exotic dancer or an erotic artist, chances are Instagram has banned your content at least once. I’ve asked Instagram for clarifications about their content restriction policy – so read on to find out why the Instagram algorithm is banning your posts.

Picture: @neonbrand via Unsplash

Read updated posts about the shadowban here and here.

Disclaimers

When I say “I spoke to Instagram”, I mean actual Instagram. I don’t mean that I spoke to my phone, shouting in frustration – although, to be fair, I’ve done just that more than once.

I must say, on a PR level, I am really impressed with Instagram’s press office. Big brands have a tendency to ignore difficult press queries, especially when they come from bloggers or smaller writers. Instagram however answered a few hours after my email, and sent me the answers to my questions way before the deadline. Really pleased with that.

Instagram and Pole Dancers

Thanks to all pole dancers who answered my Insta and Facebook call-outs about your frustration with the platform!

So personally, I find that often my videos get blocked if I post a choreography or freestyle with music. Obviously, I do not own the copyright to the music, but I’m also not claiming I do, and I’m not claiming to be its author. It seems natural that you dance to music – and filming yourself doing it is a direct consequence to that. I could dance to myself singing: “La la la”, but I have the feeling it’s not gonna be as great as me dancing to Guns N’Roses. Exhibit A by Lisa D Pole Dancer:

Also, once, I was wearing a beige underwear set and got blocked for nudity – does it mean I look beige? This really bothers me! You all tell me I’ve got beautiful olive skin when I’m actually beige? My life is a lie.

Anyhow, all the lovely dancers and artists who DM’d me expressed frustration about artistic nude, drawings or even just nipples being banned. Women especially expressed particular frustration at content regulation being specifically targeted to women, when they get countless amounts of dick picks without much being done to avoid them. So let’s hear what Instagram had to say about it.

Obviously, I haven’t conducted a content analysis to show that yes, women are disproportionately affected by inappropriate images sent or posted by men, so this is tricky to prove, but I do believe the women in my community and their experiences because that has been my experience too.

Instagram on nudity

Although it recognises that nudity can be artistic, Instagram says that they have to ensure certain images don’t upset their very diverse global community – therefore, the Instagram algorithm picks them up and shows them to less people. More info here.

Uncomfortable content for Instagram includes pictures, videos and digitally-created content that:

  • Shows sexual intercourse
  • Genitals
  • Close-ups of butts that are fully naked
  • Some photos of female nipples (which ones wasn’t clear), although photos of post-mastectomy scarring, women breastfeeding or boobs where nipples are censored are ok.

Instagram claim they do allow photos of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures – although recently artist Exotic Cancer lamented some of her content had been banned.

Instagram Copyright

We’ve all been busted by the copyright police at least once, and Insta’s response on this did not exactly clarify what’s ok and what’s not when you’re using copyrighted material such as music.

Picture: @lukevz via Unsplash

Instagram says it’s illegal to use music in your videos without permission from the copyright holder, which means that if they find out you’ve done it, your video is removed. Although I would love to call up Alice Cooper and ask him if I can use his songs for my videos, I don’t think he’d answer me. So how can we not violate copyright without asking Alice, or Drake, or Cardi for permission?

There is such thing as “fair use” which means for instance sharing a picture or painting by someone else and commenting on it, explaining that it’s a review/appreciation. More info on fair use and on copyright can be found here. Yet, when I asked whether using videos for choreographies counted as fair use, I was told there was no straight answer to my question, because it all depended on the nature of the post.

So does sharing choreographies or freestyle with music count as copyright infringement? Instagram didn’t say. The platform said it depends on the nature of the post. Which means… not much?

Shadowbanned Hashtags

A bunch of websites have talked about shadowbanned hashtags, or restricted hashtags that limit views of certain posts to prevent upsetting certain groups of the Instagram community.

There was a big uproar when “women” last year became part of this category, to then be changed back. However, it was my understanding that hashtags like #twerk or #strippers – which help sex workers better broadcast their posts – were restricted or shadowbanned.

Despite lists of shadowbanned hashtags circulating online, Instagram told me shadowbanning does not exist. Yet, I do notice some of my posts get way less engagement depending on the hashtags I use – would love to do a study on this, but unfortunately I’ve only got time for one PhD at the moment. Internet academics – one for you!

Picture: @jakobowens1 via Unsplash

How does the Instagram algorithm work?

I got no straight answer for this. I noticed videos are getting less love than pictures recently, but although I asked this to Instagram, the platform did not reply to my question. Guess we’ll have to keep experimenting with content until the algorithm changes again.

So why is Instagram banning your posts?

As Instagram said, it seems there is no straight answer. The notions of uncomfortable and inappropriate are extremely relative depending on the community that sees the posts.

While I’m extremely grateful to have heard from Instagram, to this day my favourite social network, I feel like the overall Instagram community – and especially artists, dancers, sex workers and activists – would benefit from a better insight into how the platform works than the one that was put to me in Instagram’s very swift, polite, approachable but yet unclear answer.

As a social media and criminology researcher, I know first-hand that social media can be used to do harm. I understand we’re at a time where Instagram especially is under fire due to its content, and that as a brand the platform has to do something to fix this and respond to this – and in fact, I welcome regulation when necessary.

However, I would love for Instagram to be more understanding and supportive of these categories, and to be part of that change. I’m sure you would too, if you read this blog. The ball is Instagram’s court.

Updates About The Instagram Algorithm

  • Read more about how the Instagram algorithm and how it censors hashtags here.
  • Read about what the new changes to the Instagram algorithm mean for social media here.
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11 thoughts on “Why The Instagram Algorithm Is banning Your Posts

  1. I’ve become really jaded with Instagram and Facebook in particular for how they handle censorship of certain content. Like, a dancer shows half a butt cheek doing the world’s most perfect allegra and nobody will see the post, yet we still have like a million bots selling a bunch of fake supplements or spreading fake news all over the internet? Like really?

    1. I completely agree! There are so many issues at play here. Who decides what’s inappropriate? Why aren’t they clear about what’s ok and what’s not? Why are they focusing on this when social media is a hub for harassment and misinformation? UGH

  2. … Instagram contacted you? It’s well known that they have no contact details whatsoever. That’s impossible. You can’t claim they contacted you directly – there is absolutely no way of contacting them, and no purported email as you claim in this article. Even if you have an old email address of theirs, they would not reply. It comes back with an automatic message. Google this. I don’t know why you’d make it up for your article 🤔

  3. I photograph a lot of models and pole dancers and find the whole idea of banning hashtags, removing posts and restricting accounts bloody tiresome.
    Are the keyboard warriors at instagram scared of strong women ? are they so sexually repressed that the slightest hint of a female nipple makes them involuntarily ejaculate?

    https://www.instagram.com/gordie.cavill/

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