Last week Instagram announced the launch of a feature called “Sensitive Content Control” and set, as a default for all users, an option that prevents the app’s “Explore” feature from showing posts that the company’s algorithms and human moderators deem “sexually suggestive or violent.”
The three new options that users can now select are “Allowed” (less censored), “Limit” (censored) and “Limit Even More” (even more censored). But in order to select “Allowed,” Instagram users are now being forced to navigate through several steps to disable the default filter setting.
A statement from Instagram — a Facebook company — introducing the feature claimed the company believes “people should be able to shape Instagram into the experience that they want,” which seems contradictory given that “Limit” was included as the default option for all users.
According to the company’s statement, “Sensitive Content Control” allows the user to decide how much “sensitive content” shows up in “Explore.”
The company reasserted that its controversial corporate censorship policies, which include a blanket ban on “the female nipple” — selectively not applied to celebrities and some people shown breastfeeding — are meant “to keep people safe.”
“We don’t allow hate speech, bullying and other content that might present a risk of harm to people,” the company stated.
“We also have rules about what kind of content we show you in places like ‘Explore,’” the statement continued. “We call these our Recommendation Guidelines. These guidelines were designed to help ensure that we don’t show you sensitive content from accounts you don’t follow. You can think of sensitive content as posts that don’t necessarily break our rules, but could potentially be upsetting to some people — such as posts that may be sexually suggestive or violent.”
The Sensitive Content Control feature further solidifies the corporate stance by Instagram and Facebook that all “sexually suggestive” material is in the same category as “harmful” and “violent” content.
The instructions to opt out of Instagram’s new default content censorship involve several steps and are allowed only for users over 18 years of age. First, users should go into their profile, tap the “Settings” menu and then tap “Account.” Under “Sensitive Content Control,” choose “Allow.”
As many users pointed out on social media, the default censorship of content appeared to discriminate against posts concerning sexual health, LGBTQ+ information and non-sexual posts by individuals and accounts that might have been flagged as “sexual” and thus subject to the company’s notorious (and notoriously secretive) shadowbanning protocols.
Progressive, feminist sexual health company Bellesa was one of many accounts to release a tutorial on how to override the app’s new default censorship feature.
“Instagram? Censoring sex-related content? Groundbreaking,” noted the Bellesa account.