Why Instagram won't #freethenipple

The site has no problem controlling content, even when it abides by their rules

Share

Last week, Scout Willis, the actress daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, took to the streets of New York wearing only a skirt, baring her breasts in protest at Instagram’s strict no-nipple rules.

As causes go, it would surely be filed under First World Problems, but Willis is angry at the photo-sharing app after it suspended her account due to her consistent flouting of its strict no-nudity rules.

And so she posted topless pictures of herself taken on the streets of New York – in broad daylight, she was buying flowers – on her Twitter account (nipples are allowed on Twitter), captioning one topless photo with the line “Legal in NYC but not on @instagram” and using the hashtag “#freethenipple” under another.

“This is about helping women feel empowered to make personal choices about their bodies not dictated by what society says is decent,” she tweeted.

The actress is not the first Instagram user to fall foul of the app’s puritanical ethos: Rihanna’s account was famously shut down earlier this month after the singer repeatedly posted topless photos. US Vogue’s Grace Coddington account was temporarily removed after she posted a topless illustration of herself, a fairly rudimentary line drawing in which nipples were nothing more than two black dots.

The fact that Instagram moved quickly to remove a line drawing of nipples proves just how ardent they are about their no-nipple policy, a policy that includes removing pictures of women breastfeeding.

It is that arbitrary approach to nudity that has so incensed Willis, who is enraged that the app won’t allow her to post “beautiful” and “tasteful” photos of her breasts, but will allow pictures of near-naked women draped over men as long as their nipples are covered.

She takes umbrage with the fact that Instagram seems fine with the objectification of women, allowing pictures of semi-nude women with captions like “big titty broads”, as long as a nipple tassel (real or digital) covers the areola.

Instagram meanwhile has responded to Willis with a statement saying “we prohibit all forms of nudity on Instagram because some audiences within our global community are particularly sensitive to this type of content”.

Regarding bottoms, though, the site appears to have a more pernicious strategy. Bottom selfies are a thing – they are so established a thing, there is even a catchy portmanteau to describe it: belfie.

And Instagram is full of them (remember Kim Kardashian’s?). But last week Instagram was forced to apologise to a woman who claimed that her legitimate belfie had been removed purely because of her weight.

Meghan Tonjes posted a picture of her bikini-clad bottom to Instagram (i.e. a picture clearly complying with Instagram’s no-nudity rules), only to have it removed by a moderator, a move that she says was enacted because she was a “big girl”.

She challenged Instagram on the issue, uploading a video asking why her butt selfie was taken down while many others remain, and her picture was reinstated. What the incident proved is that Instagram has no problem controlling its users' content, even when it abides by their rules.

Last year, the fashion brand Michael Kors became the first-ever advertiser on Instagram, and the app is poised to collect big-budget digital advertising campaigns, as big brands such as Levi’s and Burberry are reportedly seeking to spend their budgets on digital and mobile platforms.

Instagram is the ideal place for these brands to spend: its loyal users check it daily and are, on the whole, an image-obsessed, consumer goods-buying bunch.

Because of its intimate nature, the #aftersex selfies and the countless pictures of your dinner and your cat, it feels like the site is something that you created.

But actually, Instagram is in charge and it’s manipulating its image with more than just fancy filters. It’s about to start making massive amounts of money, and there’s no way the company would ever #freethenipple if it meant jeopardising that.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there