Instagram: Fix Your Sexual Harassment Problem

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I’m an Instagram user, and I’m trying to build a community that’s all about body positivity, confidence and tackling issues facing young women like me. Nearly every day, I get sexually harassed on the platform. 

Instagram plays host to 1 billion users across the world, 57 million of whom are under 17. And yet the company has no sexual harassment policy. Sexual harassment isn’t even mentioned in Instagram’s community guidelines. In its twenty-five paged PDF entitled, “How to Talk With Your Teen About Instagram: A Parent’s Guide,” there is no mention of sexual harassment. 

I regularly receive direct messages from Instagram users that I don’t know. They are usually from men, and they are harassing, sexualized and offensive. Sometimes these messages even contain unsolicited photos of genitalia. This won’t come as a surprise to other young women: my experience is the new normal in this digital world. 

What’s worse? You can actually get in trouble for standing up for yourself and calling out your harasser. Why you ask? Their harassment policy prevents us from publicly naming the users that sexually harass us. Instagram isn’t taking action to protect users from sexual harassment, and when we try to protect ourselves and our community, we get punished. 

What’s truly heartbreaking is the impact of these events on teens and kids. A friend of mine received a disturbing photo in a direct message. “I was fourteen and never had seen an adult penis. It made me feel SO ashamed and disgusted,” she said.  

I have a public Instagram profile. But that doesn’t mean I’m “asking for it.” Women and girls that want to use social media are not  “asking for it,” no matter who they are, what they wear or what they talk about. The reality is that many women on Instagram are regularly getting messages that are disturbing, objectifying and violating. We are never free from harassment, not even in our own homes because of the digital world we hold in our hands. 

Instagram must take responsibility for their platform. If they truly want to create a safe and positive environment for their users, Instagram needs to call this behavior what it is: sexual harassment. 

Sign this petition to demand that Instagram create a sexual harassment policy, including ways for users to effectively report incidents and stop predatory behavior for good.