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Censored? Shadowbanned? Deleted? Here is a guide for artists on social media

New York-based advocacy group Don’t Delete Art's comprehensive tips on how to comply with social media platforms' rules on art include advice from Facebook and Instagram staff

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” (removal of banned hashtags linked to “borderline content”). The move comes after hundreds of artists complained that their appeals to social media giants, such as Facebook and Instagram, about removing their works were ignored.

“This new guide combines advice from Facebook and Instagram staff, with insights from arts advocates and artists about how to comply with the vague, and often capriciously-applied, rules that govern what art is allowed on social media,” says a campaign statement.

A section on how to contextualise non-photographic art explains that “effectively contextualising your work will help an algorithm or human to view your work as acceptable according to the guidelines, therefore minimising the likelihood of your content being unjustly censored”.

A detailed section on nudity lists 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.

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

Don’t Delete Art, which was launched last year, describes itself as an international coalition of artists and free expression organisations, and displays works which have been banned or restricted online; artists featured include Clarity Haynes and Betty Tompkins along with Hudson Valley-based Nadine Robbins who says that her work has been pulled by platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.  

Robbins explains that her work was censored for going against the community guidelines issued by social media platforms about nudity. “My nudes are obviously banned. The way I cropped my paintings was also an issue which was additionally frustrating,” she tells The Art Newspaper. Robbins says she appealed every time. “95% of the time my posts did not get reinstated.”

The photographer Spencer Tunick, known for his vast photographic panoramas peopled with naked individuals, is the other co-founder of Don’t Delete Art. He says in a statement: “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.” The platform will also host virtual collaborative sessions with artists and advocates as part of the new resource.

Facebook and Instagram had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.