On the emotional trauma caused by Instagram targeting sex workers, porn stars, and their digital freedoms
Having already eclipsed one billion actively engaged users per month (500 million regular daily users), it’s entirely likely that within the next year, Instagram will be an online portal used by roughly every one in five citizens of the world. This means that Instagram’s user base equal to that of Twitter, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal (and likely more) combined. This number is also roughly equal to say, the number of cable television subscribers worldwide. Thus, it makes sense if you were an independent entrepreneur working in an industry that generated somewhere in the neighborhood of a half trillion dollars globally per year that advertising yourself or your services, for free, to a massive global audience, on a device that’s a click away on your smartphone, would make sense. However, if you’re a sex worker or porn star on Instagram target marketing revenue equal to $500 billion, that’s not the case. The emotional trauma and professional burden that Instagram banning their content has caused, is severe and worthy of closer examination.
In the past year, Instagram has aggressively debuted algorithmic measures that decrease the visibility of posts that the service deems “inappropriate.” Even deeper, the outright deletion of accounts that were “shadowbanned” — aka blocking or partially blocking content from an online community such that it will not be readily apparent to the user that they have been banned — because of constantly posting “inappropriate” content on the service, is a measure that has increased in occurrence. More often than most, sex workrs and models/actresses employed in the pornographic industry feel the squeeze of these regulations more than most.
On the surface, the institution of severe measures in social media seems antithetical to the freewheeling nature of what digital freedom of speech should mean. However, upon a deeper dig — especially as it regards these aforementioned populations — it’s not just the banning of content or barring of use of portals that is ominous. It is ultimately the idea that is potentially being fostered that those people who are being banned, and the lives they lead — moreso than the content they are posting — is what is “inappropriate.” Thus, unpacking the fact that these courses of action could have unintended psychological impact on those it targets is worth contemplating.