Women are changing their genders on Instagram to avoid censorship

Women are changing their genders on Instagram to avoid censorship

Some women are choosing to change their genders on Instagram in order to avoid censorship, which they believe disproportionately affects women, the Huffington Post reports.

Following changes to the Facebook-owned app's algorithm in April, certain female users claim to have noticed that their content receives stricter policing. The new algorithm can hide all forms of 'inappropriate content' including videos and pictures from the Explore and hashtag pages, which are normally open publicly. And it can do so automatically and without informing the user affected.

The platform relies on what is known online as 'shadow banning' to protect younger users from material which is deemed age-inappropriate.

According to the Huffington Post, the groups benefitting most from 'pretending' to be male on the app include female pole dancers, fitness instructors, and sex workers.

An Australian pole dance performer, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Michelle, spoke with HuffPost about the algorithm's alleged targeting of women.

"Many of us within the pole dancing community rely on Instagram to thrive," said the teacher and studio owner. "We use [Instagram] to share training videos, connect with new people and, for lots of us, to grow our businesses."

Near the end of October, Michelle changed her gender on her profile after noticing months of steady decline in her content's engagement.

Within just three days, she says, the engagement reverted back to what it was prior to the algorithm change in April. Her posts began receiving more likes and views, meaning they must have been displayed to a wider audience once again.

"It’s ridiculous that we have to resort to trying this kind of thing," she said.

And Michelle certainly isn't the only woman who has resorted to using such a tactic.

In fact, anti-censorship activism pages such as @everybodyvisible have been encouraging women to do just that.

Other women have also claimed to have seen a boost in their content's performance since manually changing their gender to male.

"It’s really upsetting and ridiculous that women are having to change their gender [on Instagram] to avoid being censored," Carolina a founding member of @everybodyvisible told HuffPost.

Controversial content is regularly posted on Instagram. In fact, rapper YG even posted a video of him handing his three-year-old daughter a bag of weed:

"The supportive community I found through Instagram is what gives me and so many others confidence," Carolina, who is also a pole dancer, added. "But now, with Instagram choosing who’s ‘appropriate’ and who’s not, it’s hard to feel welcome there."

In a statement to the Daily Mail, a spokesperson for Facebook has denied operating under a gender-biased system.

"We want to make sure the content we recommend to people on Instagram is safe and appropriate for everyone," the spokesman said. "Ensuring women feel heard is an essential part of that effort. Gender information from profiles has no impact on content we filter from hashtags or the Explore page."

The spokesman also stated that Instagram's algorithm does not consider gender when filtering its content.