In August, Nicholas-Williams, who goes by @CurvyNyome on the social media platform, shared a topless picture of herself sitting on a chair, wearing cycling shorts and covering her breasts with her hands.
The image, taken by photographer Alex Cameron, was taken down for supposedly violating Instagram’s nudity guidelines, and Nicholas-Williams was warned her account could be suspended if the image was reposted.
On 4 August, Nicholas-Williams addressed the incident with her followers on Instagram, writing: “Why is my body always being censored?! It’s always Black women with bigger bodies and I am tired, I am out here sharing my art and trying to normalise ALL body types and I keep getting shut down at every turn but don’t worry I’ll keep doing my thing though.”
Later she wrote: “Black people and our bodies are not for white consumption!”
Following repeated calls by Nicholas-Williams for the images to be reinstated, a petition was started calling on Instagram to “stop censoring fat black women”. The petition went on to gather more than 20,000 signatures.
Nicholas-Williams and her supporters argued that the platform was being discriminatory against plus-size bodies and demonstrated “racial bias” because it had not taken action against the likes of Emily Ratajkowski, Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian, who also uploaded near-nude pictures of themselves.
As a result of the campaign, Instagram has now confirmed that it will “allow content where someone is simply hugging, cupping or holding their breasts”.
The changes, which will come into effect on Wednesday, have been designed “to help ensure all body types are treated fairly” after Instagram admitted it was “falling short” on how its rules were being applied.
In a statement, the platform said it will “have to draw the line somewhere” so when people squeeze their breasts “in a grabbing motion with bent fingers or if there is a clear change in the shape of the breasts, that content will still break our rules”.
The policy will apply across Instagram and its parent company Facebook.
Speaking about the change in Instagram’s policy, Nicholas-Williams said: “I want to ensure that we are being respected and allowed to use spaces like Instagram, as many other creators do, without the worry of being censored and silenced.
“This is a huge step and I am glad a dialogue has now been opened into changes that can be made when women work together and use their platforms to make change.”
Kira Wong O'Connor, head of policy at Instagram, added: ”We know people feel more empowered to express themselves and create communities of support - like the body positivity community - if they feel that their bodies and images are accepted.
“We are grateful to Nyome for speaking openly and honestly about her experiences and hope this policy change will help more people to confidently express themselves. It may take some time to ensure we're correctly enforcing these new updates but we're committed to getting this right.”