Entertainment Instagram to change its breast-covering policy after censoring Celeste Barber and others

Instagram to change its breast-covering policy after censoring Celeste Barber and others

Instagram would let users share the original image of Candice Swanepoel but not Celeste Barber's parody post. Photo: Instagram/Celeste Barber
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Instagram says it will update its policy on images of breasts this week after users were blocked from sharing a post by celebrity comedian Celeste Barber.

Although users could share the original post by model Candice Swanepoel to their personal story, when they tried to share Ms Barber’s parody post last week they were blocked and told it breached the company’s community guidelines on nudity and sexual activity.

After being alerted to the issue by disappointed fans, Ms Barber took to Instagram to express her outrage and demand an answer from the social media giant.

It prompted Instagram to reverse the ban, with the head of public policy in Australia, Philip Chua, saying the company had apologised to Ms Barber for the mistake and hinted there would be changes to the policy “very soon”.

Ms Barber grew to fame by posting images of herself parodying poses and posts of celebrities, garnering millions of followers and fans in the process.

The current policy is designed to stop people posting pornographic images of people “squeezing” breasts, but the company conceded it was not being correctly applied, and should not apply to women covering their breasts instead.

Celeste Barber called out Instagram for not allowing users to share one of her posts. Photo: Instagram/Celeste Barber

The change, which will be rolled out globally on Wednesday, will mean pictures where people are hugging, cupping or holding their breasts will be allowed, and if there are issues raised, Instagram will allow the content to stay up while it is being reviewed.

People are already allowed to post images of their breasts in certain contexts where the nipples are not visible.

“We allow other images, including those depicting acts of protest, women actively engaged in breastfeeding and photos of post-mastectomy scarring,” the community guidelines state.

As well as Ms Barber, other Instagram users, including plus-size UK model Nyome Nicholas-Williams and her fans, also called out Instagram for censoring images that were not explicit.

“I am aware images of black plus-sized bodies are still being taken down, I see the tags in comments and in my [direct messages] too,” Ms Nicholas-Williams said in a post.

“We are still working, these things just take time!

Plus-size model Nyome Nicholas-Williams also raised issues with Instagram taking down images. Photo: Instagram/Nyome Nicholas-Williams

“Please remember that I’ll never stop fighting for what is right and this campaign is far from over! Until black plus-sized bodies stop being censored, there is always work to do.”

Mr Chua said it may take some time for the company to make sure the update was being enforced properly but that it was “committed to getting this right”.

“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,” he said.

“We are grateful to our global community for speaking openly and honestly about their experiences and hope this policy change will help more people to confidently express themselves.”