Insight: Tips on How to Comply with Social Media Platforms' Rules on Art

By David Schonauer   Thursday April 1, 2021

What can you post on social media?

And what can’t you post?

Knowing the difference can be hard, because Community Guidelines on many social media platforms remain vague and in many cases have proved to be overly restrictive. Now the New York-based advocacy group Don’t Delete Art has launched a guide aimed at helping artists avoid censorship online, giving advice in areas such as self-censorship and pixilation along with details on “shadowbanning”  or “downranking” (removal of banned hashtags linked to “borderline content”).  The move, noted The Art Newspaper recently, comes after hundreds of artists complained that their appeals to social media giants about removing their works were ignored.

“For the first time artists have a comprehensive guide to help protect their accounts from being demolished by social media outlets,” says photographer Savannah Spirit, a co-founder of Don’t Delete Art. “It’s essential because it provides artists with the tools to minimize takedowns. It gives artists the opportunity to maintain control over their work. When your livelihood is compromised it causes stress and anguish.”

Launched last year, Don’t Delete Art is a coalition of of artists and organizations supporting free expression. “The promise of digital platforms as democratizers of art and culture is within reach,” the group notes at its website, adding, however, that “digital gatekeepers controlling the world’s largest social media platforms have enormous power to determine what content can freely circulate and what should be banned or pushed into the digital margins. And they are wielding that power in an often chaotic and over-broad manner.”

The group also displays works which have been banned or restricted online.

“All this has a dire effect on the work of emerging artists, those living in repressive regimes and, in general, on all who have no museum or gallery representation,” the group notes. “The effect promises to be even worse during COVID-19 lockdowns, as major social platforms have shifted the vast majority of content moderation decisions to algorithms.”

The new guidelines combine advice from Facebook and Instagram staff with insights from arts advocates and artists about how to comply, notes the group. (Go here.) “We have to be able to reach our audiences, to work within the current guidelines while we keep pushing back against a removal and appeals process too many artists struggle to navigate,” says DDA co-founder Spencer Tunic, known widely for his images of groups posing nude in public.

Among the insights is a section on nudity, which explains what is not permitted, including “visible genitalia except for birth or health-related situations”. Nudity as a form of protest or posted for educational and medical reasons is usually approved, however, notes TAN.

The guidelines note that work may be downranked if it is deemed unsuitable for a wide, global audience — even though it doesn’t explicitly violate Instagram Community Guidelines. “Avoid using restricted, “banned ”or deactivated hashtags, such as #nudity, #milf, and an ever-changing list of others, as they can limit your potential audience,” notes the group.


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