Censorship on social media has always existed as a way to protect users, but when it comes to creative work, many feel its draconian rules and regulations have a tendency to stifle artistic imagery. One of the most well known instances of this was back in 2015, when artist and poet Rupi Kaur’s “period photo‘ was removed multiple times for showing a fully-clothed Kaur wearing jogging bottoms stained with menstrual blood.
After much media attention, Kaur’s image was eventually reinstated on the platform but there have been thousands of similar cases since resulting in images disappearing into the ether and even accounts being deleted. This was recently the case for groundbreaking US artist Betty Tompkins known for her controversial Fuck Paintings series, whose account was deleted last month after she posted an exhibition catalogue layout containing one of her most recognisable black and white paintings showing heterosexual penetration. The same painting sits in the permanent collection of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, so perhaps it’s the lack of context that social media can provide that makes the waters so muddy for creatives.
Instagram has provided a free space for many creatives to share their work with a huge audience, but can the constant threat of being censored or deleted impact a creative’s output? Here, four creatives talk about what it has felt like to have their work censored on social media, how it’s impacted professional opportunities and what the threat of censorship can have on creativity.