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Woman accuses Instagram of censoring her 'provocative' topless photo: 'Maybe it's because I'm bigger'

Yahoo Lifestyle
Amber Wagner, an Instagram influencer who has more than 1.5 million followers, says the social media site may have removed a topless photo because she’s ‘bigger.’

Amber Wagner couldn’t wait to reveal her first magazine cover to her 1.5 million Instagram followers this week. As the smiling face behind the infectiously positive Instagram @jstlbby (Just Livin’ Baby), Wagner has risen to fame through inspirational videos in which she urges her followers not only to strive toward their best selves, but also to embrace their current selves — no matter how hard that might be.


Her earnest mission is part of what led to a cover debut on Salty, a newly formed feminist newsletter that bills itself as “a place where all women, trans, and non-binary voices are celebrated and respected.” Pictured on a bright yellow background, Wagner’s Salty cover features her donning a platinum blonde wig and two colorful arm sleeves.

She shared the image proudly this week, only to watch it disappear from her page hours later. “It really kind of broke me down. I’m like, well damn I’m just trying to be me,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle of realizing the social media site had removed it. “Everybody else doing it — all the celebrities, Kim Kardashian. Why can’t I do it — see what I’m saying? And mine wasn’t even that provocative.”

Yahoo Lifestyle reached out to Instagram’s team about the censored photo, asking for an explanation as to why the cover was taken down. A few hours later, the image was returned to Wagner’s page and Instagram replied to Yahoo Lifestyle with a message from a spokesperson: “This image was removed in error and has now been restored, thanks for bringing it to our attention.”


The spokesperson highlighted Instagram’s commitment to “body positivity,” including the recent formation of a new “Wellbeing team” and campaigns like #PerfectlyMe. The founder of Salty, Claire Fitzsimmons, believes the platform has a long way to go. Of the five covers that Salty has put out thus far, Wagner’s is the third to be censored. Also censored was Rain Dove, the non-binary model at the center of the Asia Argento case, as well as Zoë Ligon, a sex educator who was pictured with a strap on. 


The return of the photo is a win for Wagner and for Salty, but it doesn’t change the fact that it was taken down. It’s something Wagner says she still can’t understand. “I don’t know if people were upset cause I’m a bigger figure and I actually love myself,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Maybe they hate themselves or maybe it’s because I’m bigger and I have more to show. I’m not even sure.”

Fitzsimmons, who is now well-versed in the fight to get photos back on Instagram, sees the censorship as a part of a pattern. “It’s almost like the men have created the digital world to their own parameters and if women exist in any sexual way that doesn’t benefit them sexually or financially, it corrupts the code, the algorithms can’t handle it, so we get written out of it,” Fitzsimmons tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We have to keep handling it. But [Salty] will keep putting people like this on the cover. Women are going to keep celebrating our sexuality and bodies; they can’t keep hiding us away.”


She’s quick to note that the phenomenon isn’t a new problem. “The silencing and shaming of women of color, femmes, trans, and nonbinary people’s sexuality has been happening for thousands of years. Only now, it is being updated for the digital age,” she says. “Historically, [these groups] have been erased from records, data, and history books. These algorithms do little more than continue a violent history of erasing, deleting, and excluding our legacy, our voices, and our work.”

The problem is one Fitzsimmons explored in more depth in a piece on Salty titled The Patriarchy is in the Algorithm. Although it discusses the policing of women’s bodies online, it also ends on a happy note: “Our hope? That with each celebration of female and non binary sexuality or inclusive conversation, we can further highlight and parse out the patriarchy from the coding,” Fitzsimmons writes. “Technology connects us and animates the free world. Outdated opinions about who gets to live, love, or f*** the way they want should have no place in it.”

The mantra is a similar one shared by Wagner — who promotes messages of acceptance and inclusion. Although she’s proudly plus size, the California native says she doesn’t want to be put in a box. “People always think I’m just trying to be supportive of big people, but I tell them it’s not just about big people — it’s about big, small, any size,” Wagner says. “Embrace yourself, you know what I mean? It makes you unique.”

She adds: “I just want people to start loving [themselves] more. That’s why I try to be an example of that — because they think, ‘OK she’s doing it, maybe I can do it too,’ you know?”

Wagner, who is working on a podcast, says the main motivation behind her viral Instagram is to  spread love. “The goal is to give people encouragement,” she says. “Get people’s day going, get people to have a different outlook on a negative situation.”

It’s the same sentiment that she would share with Instagram, if given the chance. I’m not out here trying to offend anybody … I’m just trying to tell people: Love yourself,” Wagner says. “That’s it, it’s that simple.”

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