Why Is Instagram Removing Photos of Fully Dressed Plus-Size Women?

Why is Instagram removing photos of fully clothed plus-size women? (Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Why is Instagram removing photos of fully clothed plus-size women? (Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Popular photo-sharing social-media service Instagram may have a plus-size problem. Starting in 2014, the site has been removing photos of plus-size women, both fully dressed and in bathing suits, “for violating our Community Guidelines.” And it’s still happening.

This week, the service appears to have taken down a photo of a woman in a tank top and black pants flashing a peace sign, with the message that it was removed for violating guidelines from body positive account PlusBabyGirl, which celebrates women of all sizes.

The account was targeted the first week of June as well, with a photo of a smiling young woman wearing a bikini while on a beach (as one does) removed for violating community standards.

A look at the community guidelines show that nudity — except in the case of breastfeeding or a painting/sculpture — is not allowed, and the service reminds users that “We want to foster a positive, diverse community.” There is no mention of bathing suits, or of being plus-size while simply existing.

In 2014, blogger and musician Meghan Tonjes showed off her curves in an Instagram photo, and she was surprised when the social network removed the image.

After posting a picture, she received a message from Instagram that the photo had been removed “for violating our Community Guidelines.” She was upset at what she felt was unfair treatment because of her weight, given that celebrities like Kim Kardashian and models like Emily Ratajkowski often share much more revealing photos.

After being called out by the TODAY Show for unfairly policing Tonjes for her size, Instagram apologized and restored the photo, saying, “We made a mistake.”

Last July, HuffPost reports, it happened again, when Aarti Olivia Dubey, a Singaporean-Indian plus-size fashion blogger, called out the app after realizing a photo she posted with two friends — all of them wearing bikinis for a professional photoshoot — had been removed because it violated community guidelines. Again, the site apologized and called the incident an accident.

Instagram relies on users to flag questionable photos, which unfortunately can allow users who are somehow “offended” by a fully clothed woman who doesn’t follow whatever imaginary beauty guidelines exist in their head, can click that “report” button. It’s not completely clear if Instagram vets these reports before removing an image, or automatically removes images that get multiple reports.

A representative from Instagram provided the following statement, writing, “We don’t typically provide details about individual accounts, but in this case I can share the below background by way of explanation.”

“A post from this account was removed in error,” the statement continued, “but we moved quickly to restore the content as soon as we learned of the mistake. We apologize for the error.”

The June 22 photo of a fully dressed woman has been restored to PlusBabyGirl.

The statement goes on to say, “A separate post from this account was reported and removed for violating our community guidelines.”

The only other post we could find that was removed from this account was of a woman in a bathing suit.

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