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Courtesy of Instagram.
Courtesy of Instagram.

Instagram Holds Discussion with Artists on Nudity Guidelines

On Monday, Instagram held a closed-door discussion about the app’s content guidelines on art and nudity with a group of about twenty artists and art workers, including Marilyn Minter, Joanne Leah, and Micol Hebron, among others, at its headquarters in Manhattan. Representatives from the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) were also invited. The meeting was scheduled after the image-sharing platform faced criticism from the arts community over its removal of artworks from artists’ accounts.

According to Artnews, those who attended the meeting expressed hope that the event would lead to policy changes. Instagram’s current community guidelines on nudity read: “For a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too.”

For artist Betty Tompkins—whose account was temporarily deleted by Instagram in April after she posted an image of Fuck Painting #1, 1969, a photorealist work based on pornography that is in the collection of the Centre Pompidou in Paris—the current guidelines are prohibitive to artists “whose work is challenging or thought-provoking.” Tompkins was invited to yesterday’s discussion, though she was unable to attend.

Among the other topics addressed by the roundtable was Instagram’s determination of a user’s gender based on photographs of their nipples, which may not align with the user’s gender identification. According to Nora Pelizzari, a member of the NCAC, “Facebook [which owns Instagram] needs to reckon with the disproportionate negative effect that is felt by trans, gender non-confirming, and queer folks by these very binary and gendered nudity policies. What that does is reinforce global norms around marginalization.”

Minter and Hebron told Artnews that while they were allowed to share news of the talk, Instagram asked attendants to sign nondisclosure agreements on the details of the discussion, which it claimed was standard procedure for visits to the company’s buildings and not specific to the content of the meeting. While Minter said that the platform is making progress, Hebron saw the confidentiality agreement as a backward step. “If they were smart, Hebron said, [the discussion] would be live-cast and streamed. It should really be a community conversation.”