Ah yes, 2014. I remember it vividly. It was the year girl bosses were girl bossing, Beyoncé performed Flawless at the MTV Video Music Awards in front of a screen that read "Feminist" and Cara Delevingne was just one of the many celebrity voices to join Lino Esco in demanding that we #FreeTheNipple. The last request was aimed at society in general, but also Instagram who had removed clips from Esco's documentary also titled Free The Nipple. Now, almost a decade since the movement went mainstream, it appears Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, intends to do just that.
Instagram's track record with nudity is famously erratic and outdated; men are allowed to bare their chests on the platform, women are not. And all of us have either experienced first hand or witnessed posts removed and accounts disabled for what AI moderators perceive as a violation of its adult nudity and sexual activity community standards. But the decision to remove the ban comes, not after years of campaigning, but following a recent incident where Meta removed two posts of a trans and non-binary American couple's bare chests from Instagram in 2021 and 2022.
The images were captioned in support of trans healthcare and a link to a fundraising gathering money for top surgery, and neither one of them actually displayed a naked nipple. When the couple appealed the unjust removal of these posts, Meta eventually restored them.
This case was used as an example against the nipple ban by Meta's oversight board, who, in a decision dated January 17, recommended Meta overhaul its current community standards around nudity in order to "respect international human rights standards”.
The oversight board comprises of journalists, politicians and academics who advise the company on its content moderation methods. Meta has 60 days to respond to the board's recommendations, which critiques how the company's current policy "is based on a binary view of gender and a distinction between male and female bodies." Adding that clarification and clearly defined community standards would result in more consistent application of content moderation.
Needless to say, it's been a long time coming. Meta, Zuck, I'm talking to you directly now. After all the strain you've put us through with IG Candid, Instagram Notes and Reels, the least you can do is #FreeTheNipple.