The debate over the prevalence of social media platforms in our lives, whether they should be considered utilities, and how they enforce their own terms of service rages on, and this time the gloves - and everything else - are off.
When you're a private company but your platform is used by everyone - to earn a living in a lot of cases - it's imperative that you're as transparent as humanly possible about your Terms of Service and enforce them fairly and in equal measure, but as we've seen recently with the YouTube debacle, that's just not happening.
The argument could be made that relying on a platform like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube to make a living is a risky endeavour in itself, because those companies don't owe their users anything and, being private entities, can do what they like, favouring some users above others, and deleting accounts seemingly on a whim. But users who choose to rely on them regardless are getting sick of the arbitrary bans, and lack of communication and transparency when it comes to why their accounts have been scrubbed from the platform.
In an effort to raise awareness of the issue, adult performers are heading to Instagram headquarters in Silicon Valley to protest, after receiving account bans and suspensions with little to no explanation of the policies that they've breached, and nothing in terms of recourse or reinstating the accounts.
"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,” said James Felton, legal counsel for the Adult Performers Actors Guild told The Guardian. “Efforts to learn the reasons behind the termination have been futile."
Instagram has offered the explanation of an increase in the number of accounts on the platform being responsible for the perceived increase in banned accounts.
"I didn’t realise before how embedded Instagram is in my professional life,” said artist Betty Tompkins, whose work is nether region-heavy . “I started to become very aware of how much they control this section of the art world. Here we have a totally unregulated, privately owned entity that has tremendous control over artists’ lives and ability to earn an income.”
"Instagram’s policies are totally opaque, I have no idea how they enforce them."
Instagram reportedly sends out automated responses to requests for more information, or offers no communication whatsoever.
"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,” added Daniel Saynt, founder of NSFW.
The main issue is the unequal enforcement of ToS, and lack of transparency. Ultimately, these platforms are run by private companies, so putting all of your eggs in one basket by using them as a main source of income is ill-advised, but they've become so prevalent in our society that it's impossible not to.
Feature image credit: Unsplash