Just last week, Instagram censored two sexy pictures of Miles Kennelly, a Harvard economics major from New York City, for violating its terms of service on nudity and sexually explicit pics — even though his pics weren’t sexually explicit. This week, two other web-lebrities have accused Instagram and Twitter of inappropriately censoring male sexual content — one of them has a point but the other one mostly has an apparent distaste for underwear.
Is banning genital outlines a form of Instagram censorship?
Sean Pratt (pictured above) is a hunky, tattooed 26-year-old British reality show star who appeared on the shows Ex On The Beach and Just Tattoo Of Us. Pratt has a very sexy Instagram account and, in the middle of last month, he posted an image of himself in jeggings that clearly showed the outline of his penis.
Instagram removed the image and in protest, Pratt wrote on Twitter, “I will never understand why it’s acceptable for girls to post near pornographic pics. Yet a bit of cock outline and this happens. Pathetic.”
Like with Kennelly, Instagram never uncensored Pratt’s revealing pic, likely because it violated Instagram’s terms of service forbidding “photos, videos and some digitally-created content that show … genitals.”
Although Instagram censorship affects women more than men, its inconsistent censorship policies have made some wonder about how evenly the photo sharing platform enforces its policies.
However, a second web-lebrity — photographer, podcaster and Hornet Stories contributor Matt Baume — had his photo of two shirtless men embracing at a Halloween party, censored by Twitter.
Don't worry, everyone, Twitter is protecting you from having to see two men touching. pic.twitter.com/nxSS26wKL1
— Matt Baume (@MattBaume) November 1, 2017
On Baume’s original photo post, Twitter hid the image with a message reading “This media may contain sensitive material.” Twitter sometimes applies this message to video and photos showing violence or explicit sexual content, requiring users to click in order to see the hidden content.
However, Twitter inconsistently applies this filter. For example, you can visit numerous porn accounts on Twitter and browse through their sexually explicit tweets without any censorship whatsoever.
In a series of of follow-up tweets, Baume explains the effect of such censorship:
Would they have done this if it had been a man gently nuzzling a woman in a tank top? Who knows? It sure would seem weird if they did. At any rate this photo is something you could see any old day out in public. And yes, it might startle or disgust some people… but that is not a reaction that worth indulging. At best, the correct response is “Oh well, if you don’t like it, don’t look.”
But instead, Twitter has treated a photo of two men being affectionate as something offensive, and the fear of that image as legitimate. The message to observers is “this is gross,” and the message to queers is “you are gross.” And that’s why it’s important to me continue taking & posting pics like these. Because it’s not gross. Loving someone is really, really nice.
Baume’s image still has the censorious message hiding it. It’s unclear when and why it was censored and the degree to which Twitter does the same to other gay content.
In addition to Pratt’s alleged Instagram censorship, Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube all have histories of banning LGBTQ content under the pretense of such content being offensive.
Featured image by Sean Pratt via Instagram