New York – The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), which represents 59 education, publishing, religious and arts organizations, and Don’t Delete Art (DDA), a collaborative project between NCAC and several other organizations and artists, welcome Meta’s recent announcement of Instagram policy updates that promise to improve transparency around downranking for the platform’s professional account users. The announcement follows several weeks of targeted efforts by both NCAC and DDA to persuade Meta to revise its approach to downranking.
Downranking—sometimes unofficially referred to as “shadowbanning”—occurs when Instagram prevents a post from being recommended to other users via the platform’s Feed, Explore, and Search functions. It applies to posts that meet Instagram’s Community Guidelines (which determine what content is allowed on the app), but which do not comply with the platform’s lesser known Recommendation Guidelines. These restrictions are much broader, and are unfamiliar to most users because their implementation has been invisible.
Unlike posts that violate the Community Guidelines—which are met with an account status alert, notification of the post’s removal, and an opportunity to appeal the decision—posts that violated the Recommendation Guidelines received no notification. They were simply downranked, and as a result, often received notably fewer likes or shares compared to other posts from the same account. Similarly, there were no opportunities to appeal such decisions, leaving many account holders subject to the whims of algorithmic review. Downranking has regularly plagued visual artists—particularly those whose work includes depictions of nudity or graphic imagery—even when they have revised their posts to comply with Instagram’s Community Guidelines.
Following recent NCAC discussions with Meta emphasizing these issues, and the release of DDA Newsletter #6 focusing on the effects of downraking and shadowbans, both groups consider Meta’s announcement as a harbinger of tangible progress toward greater artistic freedom on social media. Where previously notification and appeal features were only offered for posts that had been flagged for violating the platform’s Community Guidelines, Meta claims that similar notification and appeal features are now available to those with professional accounts when posts are not eligible for “recommendation.”
NCAC and DDA are working to test these new features to ensure that professional account users are informed when a post is marked as running afoul of Recommendations Guidelines, and have the opportunity to either appeal that assessment, or amend the post to comply with Meta’s policies.
National Coalition Against Censorship
Since its inception in 1974, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) has functioned as a first responder in protecting freedom of expression, a fundamental human right and a keystone of democracy. Representing 59 trusted education, publishing, and arts organizations, NCAC encourages and facilitates dialogue between diverse voices and perspectives, including those that have historically been silenced.
Don’t Delete Art
Don’t Delete Art (DDA) is a project to draw attention to the damage done when social media companies censor art, and to work towards greater protection of artistic expression across platforms. The project is a collaboration between artist-activists, art collectors and human rights organizations that was convened in March 2020 by the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC).