As I’ve mentioned before, Instagram, whether you like it or not, is a tremendous part of the photography world now, in almost every sense of the word. And it’s still growing, and evolving. To many’s surprise, and perhaps many more’s chagrin, Instagram has held some rather curious behaviors and regulations since inception, namely their ban on nudity, and their seemingly cavalier attitude to enforcing copyright law. Neither of these have seemed to affect Instagram in a negative manner, as the behemoth keeps growing.
However, as they grow, as is the case with any entity and especially one that grew at this rate and size, original guidelines get pushed for more specificity. With an update to their Community Guidelines, that’s precisely what Instagram, much like its parent company Facebook did recently, has just tried to do.
Their Director Of Public Policy has stated, “The policies are exactly the same as they were, but we’re trying to give people a more transparent document.” Transparency is one thing, but clarity and specificity are also clearly aims of the update. This is a daunting task for a company with over 300 million active users, so the policies have been somewhat generalized.
Now they’ve had to give even a few examples such as mentioning that breastfeeding and post-mastectomy scarring photos are allowed. This is in no doubt a response to the massive critical outcry from people around the world when Instagram deleted images that were self-portraits of a clothed woman on her period, with clearly visible blood on her pants.
What seems clear now though, is that there will likely be no budging for the time being on the nudity clause, and that includes artful nudes along with “sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully nude buttocks.” Ironically, according to TechCrunch images of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana are totally free for posting. (Oh Instagram, when will you grow up?)
There does, however, seem to be a larger push and focus on only posting works you have the right to post. Copyright even has its own dedicated page on Instagram now, just to inform and clarify, and one assumes to leverage liability and encourage self-moderation. The big question now is, how enforceable are the Instagram rules? Well, it depends largely on the users.
For example, with tens of millions of images shared a day, it’s almost inconceivable that monitoring all those images for any infringement is even a remote possibility, and Instagram clearly knows this. So it seems it uses its massive audience and leverages all those eyes by deputizing them to report images shared that go against the rules.
It’s extremely easy to do so, as with a click of the ‘Report’ button, you’re almost done reporting. Now that’s a massive help to the moderators, and they do seem to get around to most. What’s more interesting than that, however, is that reporting copyright infringement is the polar opposite in terms of difficulty. It’s not a matter of clicks, but rather a click to take you to a page where you have to fill out a separate form. So it’s clear which one Instagram cares about more, and clearly they know much of the material on their servers is shared improperly so I guess it’s not a surprise they would arrange it this way.
The problems facing Instagram are not meager, but I think their efforts to find good balance has been a bit. I also find Instagram takes a very American stance on nudity, which frankly, I would like to see lifted. We’re in an age now where we should realize that when something is barred and forbidden is when it typically becomes a perversion, and nudes in the right way don’t need to be perverse. I mean is anyone really that wound up anymore over breasts or buttocks? But the problem is understandable because it’s nigh infeasible to use a judgement call on each image in question, so the blanket rules for now will likely not go away, and there will be that gap between policy and enforcement.