Instagram must review discriminatory censoring & hashtag bans that perpetuate #BAWDYbias!
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Instagram is banning several body positive hashtags in a manner that is sexist, discriminatory, and inherently racist. This may be unintentional, but it should be reviewed and remedied as soon as possible.
On June 15th, B. Lin Murphy, owner of women's clothing brand The Bawdy Filter, noticed that engagement on the business's Instagram page was drastically diminishing. Post impressions were decreasing inexplicably. After conducting some research, she learned that a hashtag used frequently by her and her team was deemed "partially banned" by Instagram's team or automated screening process.
Traditionally, the word "bawdy" references dirty or inappropriate humor. In hip-hop and urban culture, "bawdy" is a body-positive, colloquial term that celebrates and encourages an appreciation for a person's unique physical appearance.
B. Lin founded The Bawdy Filter, which specializes in the design and manufacturing of compression bodysuits, based on the belief that ALL bodies deserve to be seen, supported, and accentuated.
The Bawdy Filter's Instagram page was effectively suppressed and shadow banned by Instagram likely for using the "partially banned" word “bawdy” as a hashtag. For a small business owner, this realization was especially disheartening as the emergence of COVID-19 has led to limitations on in-person/IRL marketing. In the absence of high-traffic conventions and trade shows, most consumer product brands are more reliant on social media marketing than ever.
After discovering the partial ban assigned to the hashtag #bawdy, B. Lin started digging much deeper and discovered that according to Instagram... all bawdies are not created equal.
In a quest to ensure aesthetic norms, Instagram's algorithms have become increasingly restrictive for users who want to share and highlight organic, human content. Blanket bans on have been applied to many hashtags that reference curvy body types. Along with #bawdy, posts with hashtags that contain words with thick in them (like #thick, #slimthick, #thickchick, #thickqueen, etc) are also indexed lower in the algorithm, marked as potential violations to the community conduct agreement, suppressed, and not allowed on the explore page.
Why are body-positive hashtags being suppressed and hidden? There are hashtags referencing race hate, homophobia, and violence that are being indexed higher than body-positive hashtags like #bodylove.
Why is Instagram censoring women without much regard?
Especially curvy women? #Thickchick is banned, but #slimchick is not.
Especially, black curvy women? #Thickblackchick is banned, but #Thickwhitegirl and #Thickasiangirl are not.
B. Lin learned that Instagram's #bawdybias has been happening for some time, and has been called out. Take a look at the articles below:
- The Sexism is in the Algorithms
- Shadowbanning Plus-Sized Women
- Is Instagram Biased Against Plus-Sized Influencers?
- Instagram's Shadow Bans Serve to Censor Marginalized Communities
- Black Creators Notice Inherent Biases on Tik Tok, Instagram
- Instagrams Censoring Issue
When you review the attached screenshots, can you tell which posts were considered ban-worthy and which were deemed acceptable by Instagram?
The company issued a statement recently and acknowledged their shortcomings and failure to ensure that black users are equally seen on their platform.
Though they are starting to acknowledge obvious biases in their content ranking, they must know that we are disillusioned and aware of the disparate impact their blanket bans have on women and minorities.
The reality is... different bawdies are viewed as riskier and ranked lower in their man-made algorithm. It is a discriminatory practice and must be resolved quickly.
Women are being silenced and hidden. Woman-owned and black-owned business are losing visibility and promotion opportunities. Fix it, please!
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