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Suki Waterhouse #freethenipple Instagram picture
@sukiwaterhouse via Instagram

Instagram finally updates its confusing policy on nudity

As the battle for freedom of posting continues, the company releases ‘clearer’ community rules

Over the last year, the freedom to post what you want on social media has become a nightmare, with Instagram community guidelines that are confusing and, in some cases, just make no sense. From period photos to #freethenipple pics, it feels like nobody understands exactly what escapes the censors' wrath and what doesn't. 

So, in response to our complaints, Instagram has put together a new community guide hoping to make it a lot clearer as to what we can and can’t post. In an interview with TechCrunch, Instagram’s director of public policy Nicky Jackson Colaco, admitted: “The policies are exactly the same as they were, but we’re trying to give people a more transparent document.”

So, how “transparent” are the new guidelines? Instagram has expanded its no nudity rule, stating: “We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but 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.”

Although Instagram states that “some photos of female nipples” are not allowed, it doesn’t say what the “criteria” is for the removal of these pictures. If it follows past form, then we can continue to mourn the feminist campaign #freethenipple as the company has removed every uncensored photo of the worldwide campaign since it began.

As Bruce Willis' daughter, Scout, put it on xoJane after she was kicked off Instagram for posting her own #freethenipple pic: "Women are regularly kicked off Instagram for posting photos with any portion of the areola exposed, while photos sans nipple – degrading as they might be – remain unchallenged."

In the past, sculptures or artworks containing nipples, penises or vaginas have been taken down as well. Facebook, which now owns Instagram, has even been known to remove photos of naked sculptures taken at the Louvre.

As part of the update though, Instagram is now allowing photos of nude sculptures or paintings, which leaves the question: what about other art forms like photography or illustration? Is nudity still banned? 

The last censorship battle Instagram faced was over an image from a photography project. Canadian artist and poet Rupi Kaur was outraged after Instagram removed a picture of herself showing a spot of blood between her legs and on her bed sheets. The idea behind the artistic photo was to explore the taboo around menstruation. For Instagram, this apparently proved too much of a taboo to have circulating on the app. (It later apologised and re-uploaded Kaur's picture.)

Although the updated guidelines are that little bit clearer, there are so many loopholes and grey areas that it seems like Instagram is just digging itself into a new digital hole.

So, have these new guidelines really made it any clearer as to what we can and can’t post? Who the hell knows?