Overweight? Instagram Might Delete Your Bikini Selfies

A plus-size Ohio teen showed some skin—and the picture platform said her images violated its community guidelines.

(Photo: Samm Newman/Instagram)

Jul 17, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Instagram gave Rihanna the boot for posting topless photos back in May, but selfies of women in bikinis or lingerie are a staple on the photo-sharing platform. Samm Newman, a 19-year-old college student from Ohio, was one of the many who happily shared photos of herself in a bra and underwear. But last weekend she was notified that her account had been suspended for violating Instagram’s community guidelines. Now Newman alleges that the site took action because she’s overweight.

“Fat is not a bad word,” Newman, who is a size 24, told NBC4i. “How confident can you be if you keep censoring yourself because people don’t want to look at you?”

The teen, who was bullied and body-shamed throughout high school because of her size, had recently connected with a supportive community on the photo-sharing site. The women regularly tagged photos with hashtags like #bodylove and #pizzasister4lyfe.

“My Instagram, it was my safe place, because when I was there, I could share anything,” said Newman. But the body-shaming continued on the platform, thanks to community members who reported Newman’s page as inappropriate.

Before her account was put on ice, the social sharing site deleted an image of Newman in a bra and polka-dot boy shorts. Then, a few hours later, it shut down her account.

Instagram’s rules prohibit users from sharing images or videos that feature nudity or mature content.

“If you wouldn’t show the photo or video you are thinking about uploading to a child, or your boss, or your parents, you probably shouldn’t share it on Instagram,” read the guidelines.

“I didn’t find them [the underwear] or the bra at all inappropriate,” Newman told the station. “They covered me entirely, and I’ve seen pictures like that all over Instagram.”

Newman has a point. As of this writing, more than 9.2 million images are tagged either #bikini or #bikinis—and many of them are of women showing way more skin than what Newman revealed. The platform bans searches for #lingerie, but searching for any brand of women’s undergarments will turn up some seriously skimpy pics. Those accounts have yet to be suspended.

After NBCi’s report of Newman’s story, Instagram revoked its suspension of her account.

“When our team processes reports from other members of the Instagram community, we occasionally make a mistake. In this case, we wrongly removed content and worked to rectify the error as soon as we were notified. We apologize for any inconvenience,” a representative wrote in a statement it emailed the station.

As for Newman, she plans to keep advocating for other women and motivating them to be proud of their shape and size.

“I mean, I’m going to make a difference in the world, regardless of whether Instagram cooperates or not,” she said.