The Warwick Rowers have called out Instagram once again for censoring nude content from their account.

More than a dozen images posted to their 200,000+ followers on Instagram have been taken down since September for violating guidelines on pornography or nudity, the athletes said in a statement on Tuesday (December 18).



Most of the posts that were deleted were images from their 2019 nude calendars,  proceeds from which will go towards promoting inclusivity in sports.

The athletes said the images had already been reviewed to comply with social media guidelines.

“The Warwick Rowers is about straight men acknowledging and celebrating the rights of women, queer people, and anyone else who want to look at them.”

But it was the disappearance of a particular post that earned the rowers’ ire.

The Warwick Rowers had published a message in honour of Human Rights Day on December 10 across their social platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, where the post is still available. 

The post stated: “People sometimes ask why we need the Warwick Rowers project. Here’s one answer. It’s because society is not fair about how it meets the respective needs of straight men, women and LGBT communities. We are all human and we all deserve the same rights.

“Yet we live in the world focused around heterosexual desire. The Warwick Rowers is about straight men acknowledging and celebrating the rights of women, queer people, and anyone else who want to look at them. And if they do look at them, these guys have a message: you are looking at a friend.”

Instagram clarifies nudity guidelines

In a statement to PinkNews, Instagram reiterated their policy of banning nudity “to ensure a comfortable experience for all.”

“This includes content that shows sexual intercourse, genitals, close-ups of fully-nude buttocks or visible pubic hair—even if the genitals are covered by items such as hands or legs,” the statement read.

One of the pictures that, according to the Warwick Rowers, has been deleted from their Instagram account.
Proceeds from the Warwick Rowers calendars go to charity. (Angus Malcolm/Warwick Rowers)

The statement noted that while some body parts remain restricted, such as images of female breasts including the nipple—a policy that has been widely criticised, especially among the gender non-conforming community—Instagram now allows some exceptions to the rule, after consulting with advocates and women’s health experts.

Instagram said it intended to work together with the Warwick Rowers in a similar way. “We have reached out to the account owners to explain our guidelines and want to work with them moving forward to help avoid similar issues in future,” the statement read.

Warwick Rowers promote charitable cause

The Warwick Rowers are celebrating 10 years since the launch of their first calendar, started in 2009 by an LGBT+ activist and a group of male student athletes.

The calendar’s popularity has since enabled the founding of Sports Allies, a charity that aims to turn sports into a leading field in the promotion of gender equality and LGBT+ inclusion, for which the Warwick Rowers have raised nearly £120,000 in the past four years.

The athletes have previously had issues with Instagram in June, when their account was disabled for 24 hours. At the time, Instagram told PinkNews: “This account was removed in error. We have since reactivated @Warwick_rowers and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

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The athletes are not the only ones who have recently been subjected to Instagram’s censorship. A stunning photoshoot by photographer Damon Baker of Queer Eye star Antoni Porowski was also removed—and subsequently reposted this week after the photographer complained publicly.

Warwick Rowers producer calls for more transparency

Angus Malcolm, the long time producer of the Warwick Rowers project, is now calling on Instagram to be more transparent about its curation process. 

“At the very least, we believe that consumers are entitled to understand the rules of engagement for social platforms, so that they can make informed choices about what and where to post, and informed decisions about how to interpret the information they receive,” he said in a statement.

Among the Warwick Rowers’ concern, is that “subjective or automated curation” will negatively affect their project which, they say, is “unfairly grouped with ‘adult content'” and that “risk-averse curation, which favours the commercial interests of the platform over the interests and welfare of users, could be as much a threat to democratic expression as fake news and the better understood biases like homogeneity bias and filter bubble.”

Warwick Rowers pose at a boat house
Proceeds from the Warwick Rowers calendar go to charity. (Angus Malcolm/Warwick Rowers)

Conservative Party MP Damian Collins is supporting the Warwick Rowers in their quest for transparency.

Collins, the Chair of the House of Commons Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who has previously hosted two events for Sport Allies, said he could not find anything in the deleted pictures that violated Instagram’s terms and conditions.

“I have looked at pictures that have been removed, and it is clear to me that none breaches Instagram’s guidelines. Moreover, the character and intention of the Warwick Rowers project is clear and unambiguous.

“Instagram has undoubtedly got questions to answer in this case, and I think we all deserve better, clearer answers than the ones they have previously provided,” the MP said in a statement.

This article was updated with a statement from instagram.




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