There are two kinds of social media censorship.
When you sign up for an account with a social media website like Facebook, or Instagram or Twitter, you are confronted with a wall of small text under the heading Terms And Conditions. Most of us are in such a hurry to get to the next step— the fun part—that we just click on ‘Accept’ and move on. However, these terms and conditions represent a contract we sign with the company, giving them rights over our content in a way that might shock you if you were physically signing this contract with someone else. Facebook’s terms give them the right to sell things to you based on your browsing history, for example. Instagram can use any of your photos, royalty- and copyright-free, so while you own your image, you’re leasing them to Instagram rent-free. When thought about like that, it should be less surprising that these behemoths also want to make sure you’re adhering to what they call ‘community guidelines’, which is a broad and shifting term that can mean whatever they want it to mean. This is where the first level of censorship kicks in.
When Rupi Kaur first posted her now controversial image on Instagram, she probably wasn’t aware that it would get the reaction it did. The Canadian poet and artist had been doing a menstruation series for the social media app, and her latest post was taken by her sister and showed Rupi lying on her side with her back to the camera. A perfectly ordinary photo until you look a little closer and noticed a smear of blood on her grey track pants, and another on the bedsheet. It was a shocking image because of just one detail: that was the first time I—and a lot of us—had seen menstruation represented in such graphic, everyday detail. Instagram deleted the picture because it didn’t follow the social media platform’s community guidelines.
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October 27 2015