Moms Reportedly Say Instagram Is Deleting Shirtless Photos of Their Sons with Long Hair
Moms are posting the hashtag "#longhairedboyrevolution" in protest
Moms on Instagram are calling out the app’s algorithm after shirtless photos of their sons with long hair — seemingly mistaken for girls — keep getting deleted from the platform, according to a BuzzFeed News report.
BuzzFeed News spoke to Tori Spooner, the Florida mother of 4-year-old boy Parker, who told the outlet that her son has long hair and “never wears a shirt” because they’re at the beach “all the time.”
According to Spooner, a topless photo of Parker was flagged on Facebook (which owns Instagram) about a year and a half ago, marking the first time a photo of him was flagged.
“They sent it and said it was sexual and we weren’t allowed to have it. It was pretty much just a warning,” she told BuzzFeed News. “Then the second time it happened on Facebook, it banned me for a couple of days.”
It wasn’t long before her Instagram photos of Parker began to get flagged as well, and eventually, an account she had made for her son was deleted by the app. (The account has since been restored.)
“They said my account was taken down because too many of the photos were flagged on Instagram,” Spooner told the outlet.
BuzzFeed News reports that Instagram and Facebook both use “artificial intelligence and machine learning” to detect child nudity and “child exploitative content,” meaning it could have been an algorithm or robot that flagged Spooner’s photos.
According to Instagram’s community guidelines, nude photos are not allowed on the app. Photos of female nipples for children older than toddler-age are also not allowed, with some exceptions for breastfeeding and post-mastectomy scarring.
A Facebook Company spokesperson told PEOPLE in a statement: “This post was taken down in error and we are sorry for the mistake. We err on the side of protecting children and for safety reasons we remove some images that show nude or partially-nude children.”
“Even when this content is shared with good intentions, it could be used by others in unanticipated ways,” the statement continued.
After Spooner posted a photo of Parker holding a sign that read “Dear Instagram, I’m a boy. I just have long hair. Quit deleting my pictures!” in protest of the app’s decision to ban her account, other moms and parents joined in.
Many posted similar pictures of their long-haired sons holding signs with the same message, and also began using the hashtag “longhairedboyrevolution.”
“I originally just started it kind of for us, but so many other people were commenting saying they’d make a sign too, and it started spreading,” Spooner told BuzzFeed News.
In the end, Spooner said that she wants Instagram to “find a solution so we’re allowed to post our boys with long hair … Have somebody manually view them if they get flagged.”
According to Business Insider, Instagram head Adam Mosseri responded to the complaints and the hashtag in an Instagram Story last week, explaining that he had restored any mistakenly removed accounts. He also reportedly signed his note from the “dad of a long-haired boy.”