Model deemed too ‘undesirable’ for Insta
A beauty blogger and body positivity advocate has gone to war with Instagram after it mistakenly refused to let her promote a post showing her skin condition because it was too "undesirable".
Lex Gillies posed for photographer Sophie Harris-Taylor's Epidermis exhibition in London and shared the image on her Instagram, where she has almost 20,000 followers.
Ms Gillies has a common condition that causes facial redness called rosacea, and uses her Instagram account to help others understand and normalise it.
When she tried to promote the post to a larger audience, it was knocked back because it used "images that excessively focus on a person's body or body part".
View this post on Instagram
So Facebook finally responded to the #undesirablesofinstagram post after a journalist from @verge contacted them. 3.5 weeks after I tried to promote an image of my face, 11 days after they told me that my naked face was 'undesirable', and 10 days after I wrote a blog post detailing the many ways in which Instagram have been targeting the skin positivity community, this was their considered response: "I looked into it and this ad was rejected in error and we are sorry for the mistake. It’s now up and running." Their response is deliberately obtuse and absolutely infuriating. Their OWN GUIDELINES list the things they consider 'undesirable' and skin conditions are one of them. That's not an error. That's deliberate cruelty. The #undesirablesofinstagram campaign was never about the ad. That was just a tangible symptom of their awful and discriminatory behaviour. Not only have they completely glossed over the fact that they referred to skin conditions as ‘undesirable’ but they are point blank refusing to comment on their wider disregard and targeting of the skin positivity community, even when confronted with proof. Describing people's appearance as 'undesirable' is WRONG, controlling what people see online based on outdated beauty standards is WRONG. All we wanted was for the guidelines to be changed to reflect this. (And the ad never did go live. It's almost as though they'll say anything to try to make this go away, instead of just doing the right thing 🤷🏼♀️) 📸 By the incredible @sophieharristaylor #normalizeskintexture #skinpositivity #sundaymorningview
She appealed the decision, and after two weeks finally received a response from Instagram's parent company Facebook, which said the ad was rejected on the grounds that it violated its advertising policies.
"We don't allow ads that focus on aspects of a person's body to highlight an undesirable or idealised body state," a screenshot of the response posted on Ms Gillies' blog read.
The policy went on to list several examples of "undesirable" body depictions that included baldness, cellulite and acne, prompting Ms Gillies to start #UndesirablesOfInstagram and encourage her followers to post pictures of their own "undesirable" faces.
View this post on Instagram
Swipe across to see the three emotions experienced when confronted with an enormous photo of your naked face hanging in a flipping gallery 😂 I cannot describe how emotional this experience was. Walking around the space, surrounded by photos of women at their most vulnerable. All strong. All beautiful. All changing perceptions of skin conditions one photo at a time. 👏 The amazing @sophieharristaylor 'Epidermis' exhibition is open until the 13th of September and it's free. You should go if you can! (ALSO the irony is not lost on me that in the same week that my photo is being bought as actual art by strangers in a gallery, the same image is also being censored by Instagram for being 'undesirable' 🙄... #undesirablesofinstagram) #skinpositivity #rosacea #rosaceaawareness
Facebook's policy is designed to avoid users feeling "singled out" and target scam ads hawking miracle cures.
"This ad was rejected in error and we are sorry for the mistake," a Facebook spokesman told news.com.au.
"Over the past 18 months we have grown our safety and security team from 10,000 to 30,000 people.
"Fifteen thousand of those are dedicated to reviewing content in line with our community standards."
That equates to about one community standards content reviewer per 140,000 people who use at least one Facebook product (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger) every day.
This ratio goes some way towards explaining why it took more than three weeks for Ms Gillies to have her promoted post approved by a human reviewer, by which point the exhibition it was meant to promote had ended.
Ms Gillies told The Verge she participated in the exhibition to get people talking about rosacea, and her Instagram was largely focused on the normalisation and acceptance of skin conditions and promoting skin positivity.
Last year, Instagram partnered with the Butterfly Organisation, an Australian organisation that supports people with eating disorders and negative body image.
But while Instagram is trying to publicly support and promote body positivity, it remains a challenge for the social media platform to effectively moderate content posted by its massive user base to ensure its policies don't cause harm to the people they're intended to protect.
PROOF SOCIAL MEDIA IS BAD FOR YOU
Body image and self esteem have emerged as growing concerns on social media. If you've ever felt sadder and more isolated logging off Facebook than you did when you logged on, take comfort in knowing you're not alone.
A 2017 study of more than 5000 adults found using Facebook had an overall negative impact on wellbeing and the detrimental impacts of social media use actually negated or outweighed the positive benefits of face-to-face social interaction.
The research was conducted over three years and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Past research found people who had regular, close and real-life social interactions were healthier, happier, drank less and lived longer.
Meanwhile research into online interaction showed it made us fatter, lazier and eroded our self esteem.
One of the reasons is the constant comparisons made between ourselves and the people we follow on social media, of whom we only see a highlight reel of their most impressive moments.
Study participants reported the more they used Facebook, the worse they felt, both physically and mentally, but the study did find those who interacted more with close personal friends fared better.
They also reported a higher level of life satisfaction.
The study relied on self reported data, meaning the problem could be even more widespread than the research indicates.
Do you think social media is good or bad for you? Comment below