08:07 GMT +321 July 2019
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    Adult Performers Protest Instagram Over Sexual Content Rules

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    On Wednesday, dozens of adult performers will protest outside of Instagram’s headquarters in Silicon Valley in the southern San Francisco Bay Area of California over the company’s guidelines regarding photos and videos containing nudity or sexual content.

    According to a report by the Guardian, the performers aren’t protesting against the existence of nudity guidelines in general, but rather that those guidelines are vaguely explained and account suspensions for violating the guidelines are not done in a consistent fashion. In addition, the protesters, which also include sex workers, sex educators and models, claim that the social media platform does not notify users over which guidelines were violated when removing their accounts, nor does it say how their accounts can be restored. 

    Amber Lynn, an American porn star, told the Guardian that her five-year-old Instagram account was terminated without any explanation two months ago.

    “I sent [Instagram] multiple emails through my lawyer, and they will still not tell me why they did it,” she said, also noting that her Instagram had around 100,000 followers. “They do not answer you, do not give you an opportunity to correct any problems or even tell you what problems they had to begin with so you can avoid it in the future.”

    Lynn added that she has no way to retrieve videos and photos she shared of her brother, who has since passed away, on her account without Instagram’s help.

    “There was a lot of stuff that was not just content of me as a model and an actor but private, personal mementoes that were lost just because they can take it with the flick of a switch,” she said. “And Instagram doesn’t care.”

    According to the Adult Performers Actors Guild, a labor union for the adult film industry, Instagram has deleted the accounts of more than 1,000 adult performers in 2019 alone. 

    In April, the union asked Facebook, which owns Instagram, to explain its account removal process.

    “In the large majority of instances, there was no nudity shown in the pictures. However, it appears that the accounts were terminated merely because of their status as an adult performer,” James Felton, the guild’s legal counsel, told the Guardian. “Efforts to learn the reasons behind the termination have been futile,” he added, also noting that the group was considering taking a “legal route” against Instagram’s actions.

    In April, a Los Angeles model, Rachel Clugston, with more than 37,000 followers had her account suspended after reposting an inappropriate message she had received from a photographer and warning her followers not to work with him. Shortly after she made the post, her account was suspended without any explanation by Instagram.

    Clugston’s account was reinstated almost a month later after she sent numerous emails to Instagram’s customer service team.

    “I learned through this experience Instagram has so much control over my life and my wellbeing and how I earn a living,” she said. “I literally would have been homeless if I did not get my Instagram back. I don’t know what I would have done for work.”

    According to Daniel Saynt, founder of NSFW, a sex-positive private club in New York, his account was terminated over a post “advocating for female pleasure,” the Guardian reported. He also told the outlet that recently he has noticed accounts belonging to his clients who work in the sex industry being terminated more frequently. 

    “When you’re shut down, there’s no system in place to get your account back. We can’t access any of our previous content,” he said. “It’s all lost, and the thousands we’ve invested in building our audience are gone. Instagram is a utility at this point. It shouldn’t be able to impose biased censorship against women, and yet it continues to do so.”

    There is some speculation that social media platforms have been censoring sexual content more frequently after the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (FOSTA) and Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act or 2018 (SESTA) were signed into law. The measures meant online platforms could be held liable for content their users posted that encouraged sex trafficking, which in practice can include sex workers’ accounts. According to the Guardian, Instagram said the recent account bannings were not due to the new laws.

    Instagram did not immediately respond to Sputnik’s request for comment.

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