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Photography @carrier_lost, via Unsplash

Instagram is blocking all content linked to conversion therapy

The app will ban any promotion of the abhorrent anti-LGBTQ+ practice

Instagram has announced that it will ban all content linked to or promoting conversion therapy services, which is a psychological practice that attempts to change an LGBTQ+ person’s sexuality.

The move comes just months after the app blocked the promotion of the practice in ads, where people don’t choose what they see. From today (July 10), Instagram will extend this ban to any content associated with conversion therapy.

Speaking to BBC News, Tara Hopkins, Instagram’s EMEA public policy director, said: “We don’t allow attacks against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and are updating our policies to ban the promotion of conversion therapy services. We are always reviewing our policies and will continue to consult with experts and people with personal experiences to inform our approach.”

Instagram warns that it will take time to implement the ban, meaning content reported by users may not be removed immediately, though the app stresses this will change over time.

Campaigners are still urging the UK government to make conversion therapy illegal, after former prime minister Theresa May announced she would outlaw the practice in 2018. While some violent methods, including ‘corrective rape’, are illegal under already existing criminal offences, many religious practices, including exorcisms, are not.

Just last week, the House of Commons issued an apology after posting a tweet asking its followers their thoughts on outlawing conversion therapy. “How does #ConversionTherapy affect the #LGBTQ community?” the tweet read. “Should it be made illegal? What would that mean to you?”

In an apology statement, the House of Commons wrote: “We have deleted a tweet about a petition relating to #ConversionTherapy that caused offence. We apologise. Our intention was to provide a platform for people to share their opinions with the Petitions Committee, and inform its case to the government. Clearly we misjudged this.”

Today, activist group Ban Conversion Therapy has sent an open letter to equalities minister Liz Truss urging for the practice’s outlawing in the UK. Signed by figures including Olly Alexander, Munroe Bergdorf, Dua Lipa, and Rina Sawayama, the letter reads: “Any form of counselling or persuading someone to change their sexual orientation or behaviour so as to conform with a heteronormative lifestyle, or their gender identity should be illegal, no matter the reason, religious or otherwise – whatever the person’s age.”

Speaking to Dazed in 2016, four men gave their heartbreaking accounts of being subjected to the practice. “They were telling me that I was surrounded by demons,” recalled Charles, “and that, through sessions, I could ward them away.” 

Jerry described conversion therapy as “torture”, “murder”, and “rape”. He told Dazed: “Almost every single person I know who went through that thought about, attempted, or was successful in going through with suicide. They were going to this counselling that was telling them that what they were feeling in their hearts, the love they embodied, was wrong. (That) the very basic instinct of human love was something you should bottle up.”

Sign the petition urging the government to make conversion therapy illegal in the UK here.