In a recent episode of 5 Things podcast, host Michael Rapaport discusses the recent political divide in America. In particular, he talks about how conservative and liberal lawmakers are uniting to take on Instagram. He argues that Instagram is making it more difficult for conservatives to find content they want while simultaneously promoting the liberal agenda.
It’s difficult for conservative bloggers to get noticed on Instagram, with the exception of LifeSiteNews which has an active following. I can’t speak much on how LifeSiteNews gets its followers since most web traffic comes from Facebook and Twitter. However, I can speak about my experience with censorship on Instagram from a liberal point of view.
As I have written in a previous article, I attempted to create a viral video for a conservative cause which would address the American electorate’s growing concern over the threat of radical Islamic terrorism. The video was pulled without notice by YouTube and while it did not contain anything offensive, it was still banned. I tried to appeal the decision but YouTube would not allow the video back onto the site despite its lack of violations. This event combined with Michael’s commentary on Instagram has me concerned about censorship in social media and whether or not conservatives have been targeted.
In this article, I will provide examples from my own experience with censorship on Instagram as well as from the case studies of other social media platforms. I will then provide recommendations for how conservatives can resist censorship and utilize social media to their advantage.
I joined Instagram in June of 2016 as a means to grow my blog. At first, I wasn’t very active on the platform. I would post content occasionally but didn’t concern myself too much with finding followers.
However, when Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United States in June of 2015, I knew that this was my chance to influence public opinion. From young conservatives like Tomi Lahren to older news anchors like Bill O’Reilly, Trump had a multifaceted support system which helped bring his message to the American people. I was determined to create a grassroots effort from bloggers and citizen journalists so that we could tell our side of the story.
In order accomplish this mission, I knew that my audience would need a means to share content quickly and across all social media platforms. This led me to create my first successful meme about the mainstream media’s bias against Donald Trump during his campaign. I then created another meme that had more success but I never thought it would go viral until after its initial success.
This second meme was a picture of Hillary Clinton with red text overlayed on top which said, “I’m a Nasty Woman.” I had seen similar hashtags from her supporters during the election but they were never able to decrypt Donald Trump’s base. This would be my first attempt.
I posted this image with the caption, “Make America Nasty Again – Support President Trump”. I also added a quick description of how Hillary Clinton labeled a large portion of Donald Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables”. I wanted to redirect this label into something empowering that would resonate with the American people. The post got over 1,200 likes and I was initially happy with myself until I received word from one of my Instagram followers that the image had been removed for violating community guidelines.
This was the first time I had ever received a notification for removal of content on Instagram. I re-uploaded the image and this time made sure to include no text in order to comply with community standards. The post still got over 1,200 likes which told me that either people weren’t using hashtags or they agreed with the message. However, I did receive word from another one of my Instagram followers that my initial post with the text overlay had not been deleted and instead hidden. My follower was able to find the image through search by its URL which means it had never actually been removed but only hidden by Instagram after someone reported it for violating community standards.