UPDATE : July 11th
Please read: My Open Letter To Instagram.
UPDATE: July 9th
UPDATE: June 26th
Instagram deleted my @save_heatherbays account because I posted a picture by @courtneybabyccino of her daughter showing off her belly button supporting her because that image was responsible for her loosing her entire Instagram account.
UPDATE: May 15th
Please read: My Final Words.
Includes one of the photos that got my whole account deleted.
On the Eve of Mother's Day, I came home to 7 emails from Instagram informing me that a picture was reported (so 7 in total) for violating the Instagram guildlines. This followed an inappropriate comment on this breastfeeding photo. The emails all came within a minute of each other and showed that they were sent to me 8 minutes prior to me receiving them. Since I know way too many people who have had their accounts deleted over breastfeeding photos, I expected the worst. I quickly checked Instagram, but unfortunately my account was already gone. Three years of my motherhood documented in the most sentimental of ways. My online community of mostly mothers just gone, less then 10 minutes after receiving the warnings! With no way of contacting Instagram to deal with this, I was left to follow word of mouth on how to deal with this situation by the few mothers I knew who were able to get their accounts reinstated. I started @save_heatherbays and the hashtag #saveheatherbays in hopes that instagram would see this and fix it. I woke up the next morning and media were knocking on my door. Since Instagram still hadn't responded to any of my pleas, I was happy when SCREAMING IN ALL CAPS wanted to write an article on it. They were supportive of my case, so I hoping that more people would hashtag #saveheatherbays to get on Instagram to reinstate my account. That's when things really took off, and before I knew it, I was on the news and in the newspaper and radio worldwide. It was so overwhelming. It's still overwhelming. But I have learned a lot about this situation. This is far bigger then me! It is far bigger then the breastfeeding issue, but it does confirm that there's a breastfeeding discrimination issue in social media and it plays a part in having people's digital lives deleted.
Social media sites target people like mothers, but especially mothers because it gives us a sense of community in a world where our communities are not so much within our neighbourhoods anymore. They are online. We share our mothering journeys and if you have a baby, feeding it sure is a HUGE part of that journey. Fifty years ago, breastfeeding in public was not an issue! But somehow in 2014, it is?! If people were to post a picture of a child bottle-feeding, or course that would be okay. If people want to post a picture of any other mammal nursing it's young, that would be okay. But as soon as a woman posts a photos of her nursing her baby, which is a beautiful experiences for so many women, people gasp and shame them and think that it's a sexual thing because our society sexualizes and objectifies women all the time everywhere. So now our boobs have become a sexual object. However, the law in most places clearly state that a woman is allowed to breastfeed her child anytime anywhere! Yes IG is a private company, but it invites its users to a place to share in a public forum. (It is often claimed that because Instagram is a private company, they can enforce whatever rules they want but this isn't true. In the US, following an attempt by a privately owned mall to ban an individual expressing a political opinion on a tshirt, the US Supreme Court ruled (1980) that private companies that invite people in (for example, a mall) open themselves up to certain regulations such as political expression and free speech. It would seem this should also apply to Instagram and other social media outlets). Instagram even states in their policies that they allow breastfeeding photos. So why are some of their users allowed to report our accounts and have them deleted over breastfeeding photos? I'm not forcing anyone to look at my photos. In fact, people don't even have to follow me. But when one person is offended by my photo and decides to report me for offensive material (especially an artistic black and white shot...I am a photographer who documents peoples lives and that’s not a crime) my community is taken away from me without warning and with no way of getting that back (without a public outcry) when clearly no violation was committed. Please note, they never would have contacted me or responded to me if I didn't turn to my followers to help get heard. Instagram deleted comments that were left on their Facebook page regarding this issue, which means they saw it, but didn't respond.
By dinner time on the day after Mother's Day, Instagram finally CALLED ME! Please, click the link below find out what IG's response to me was. Be sure to read BOTH the photo and the caption on the side that goes with the photo.
INSTAGRAM'S RESPONSE: http://instagram.com/p/n_B19rBw35/
(that link no longer works because Instagram has not reactivated my @save_heatherbays account where that was posted, so I have posted it below.)
Now that you read that, just replace my selfie with this monkey, who is also a mammal, just like me, and imagine this breastfeeding monkey got me deleted from my online community? Seems so ridiculous!
So, because of such nonsense, many women feed their babies in public bathroom stalls!! No one wants to sit for 20 minutes in a public bathroom stall, let alone eat in a public bathroom stall! And so many women go as far as not breastfeeding at all because our society continues to shame women for breastfeeding in public, along with objectifying women so much as to scare women into formula feeding for fear of stretch marks or saggy breasts!
I have no idea how anyone can be against public breastfeeding. Some of the comments I have received through this are some of THE MOST ridiculous things I have ever heard. It doesn't even make me angry. It makes me feel sorry for people that get so offended by this. It must be hard to live in a world that is so offensive all the time. How stressful for so many people. And how unnecessary. And it's people like this that ruin the Instagram experience for everyone!
What angers me the most about THIS whole situation is that IG is now claiming it wasn't about breastfeeding (even though that seems suspicious with how things unravelled and then when I asked them what photos were reported, they told me that was confidential information…even though they are MY pictures), but instead IG is telling me that any pictures of a child of walking age showing even their bare torso is considered child pornography, EVEN THOUGH the law clearly states that IT IS NOT. Think of the Huggies and Pampers packaging, and cloth diapers, and all the tv ads with little baby butts running across the screen. IG is accusing SO SO SO many people, so many parents, of being child pornographers! To me, this seems like a cover up for a flawed system that is only run by 68 people. If they have to rely on their users to police the site for them, then this discrimination will continue to happen because of all the people with a twisted view. More accounts will continue to be deleted for unjust reasons which rarely get reinstated because Instagram leaves no way of contacting them directly. These individuals who go around reporting people are in fact bullies. I worry for those sensitive people who are not likely to stand up and defend themselves. Instagram must change their user policy and review the incoming reports so that false accusations are not permitted and innocent people such as myself are not punished. At the end of the day, Instagram must take responsibility for its actions and understand that when a picture, such as the one of my twenty month shirtless child is removed and classified as pornographic, Instagram is the one sexualizing the image of MY child (along with all the other parents this has happened to). This is vile, and encouraging this sort of view sets a dangerous societal precedent.