The unwritten rules of social media (a survival guide)

Published on
February 12th, 2022
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How do doctors, researchers, health companies and sex educators combat harmful policies at legacy social platforms?

Taylor Majewski is the founder of Lemon Lab. Previously she was an EIR at Human Ventures, and her writing has been published in the New York Times, Vox, and One Zero. Find her on Twitter: @TaylorMajewski.
In Dan Bilzerian’s last three Instagram posts, I counted 25 women in their underwear.
For Bilzerian, a playboy slash poker player slash entrepreneur slash influencer, this is pretty on brand. Sliced between Bilzerian’s photos of himself surrounded by nearly naked (and sometimes fully naked) women are promotional posts for his CBD company.
In theory, Bilzerian should be on thin ice with Instagram. As a rule, the platform doesn’t allow nudity. Their algorithms can’t detect things like consent or the age of a photo’s subject, and Instagram is up front about the fact that they err on the conservative side for safety reasons. Paid advertisements for CBD products are also anathema at Instagram—but you can share regular posts that might feature products in this category. Of course, you can still become shadow-banned—that is, your posts or account become limited in visibility—if you don’t comply with these terms.
Yet there’s no evidence that Blizerian, whose account has a hair shy of 33 million followers, has been punished or persuaded by Instagram. And whether you think Instagram should enforce its policies on Bilzerian or not, it’s clear that the rules don’t apply to him—the proof is on the page.
The rules do apply, however, to doctors, researchers, women’s health companies, sexual health educators, activists and sex workers who are routinely blocked and shadow-banned by Instagram and other legacy social media sites.
Take, for example, Dr. Nicole Prause, an American neuroscientist researching human sexual behavior, who routinely runs ads on Twitter to recruit study participants for grant-funded research. FDA regulations ensure that the ads are approved by a 12-member federal ethics board before they are shared, in order to protect the rights and welfare of research subjects. And yet, these same ads are then blocked by Twitter, citing “inappropriate content.”
Lauren Schulte Wang, the founder and CEO of the menstrual disk company Flex, recently tried to run ads on TikTok showing a representation of period blood, but was denied for showing “gruesome and disgusting content,” “sensitive body parts,” and “sexual content.” Google also rejected one of Flex’s ads that showed two women in one-piece bathing suits—that one was disapproved for “adult and shocking content.” Given what decision-making power looks like at these companies, it's pretty clear who was shocked.
This excerpt is from an article originally published on Every, a publication and writer collective focused on business. Read the rest here.
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