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Instagram holds a meeting with artists about its nudity policy

“A lot of people expressed the need for it to happen so it was just time”

A small group of roughly 20 artists, curators, and activists were called into a private meeting at Instagram’s New York City HQ yesterday to discuss the platform’s nudity policies. 

Visual artists Marilyn Minter and Joanne Leah were among those present, as well as artist and activist Micol Hebron, who has been fighting Instagram’s policy on women’s nipples for several years. It was Leah who got the ball rolling however, having built a rapport with Facebook’s policy team by circulating a petition calling on them to reconsider its censorship of artworks containing nudity. 

Leah went on to have several video chats with the team prior to Monday’s discussion, which she insisted was the result of combined efforts from many artists and creatives. “A lot of people expressed the need for it to happen so it was just time. I don’t think any one person should be taking credit,” she told online arts magazine Hyperallergic.

Instagram is owned by Facebook but operates under its own nudity guidelines, which allow for photos of post-mastectomy scarring, women breastfeeding, and “nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures,” but prohibit “photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks” as well as “some photos of female nipples.”

Hebron, who ironically had her account suspended just hours after the meeting for posting a topless photo outside Instagram’s office, says the current guidelines lack nuance and police the bodies and identities of users. She welcomed the efforts to start a meaningful dialogue, but was disappointed that the meeting was private and not a public forum. All attendees had to sign non-disclosure agreements on arrival.

The social media network has not officially announced any policy changes but told Hyperallergic magazine in an email: “one of the most important pieces of our policy development process is speaking to external experts and stakeholders to ensure we have considered as many perspectives as possible. This meeting allowed us to do that, and we hope to have an ongoing dialogue”.