Instagram accused of 'absurd' bans despite allowing 'horrific' animal cruelty video

'Meta could be using their might to shut down trafficking, weapons and drug dealing.'

Breastfeeding, bikini shots, sheer outfits, hand-drawn artworks and even... swearing?

These are just some of the "absurd" reasons Aussies have been banned from Facebook and Instagram, while the platforms consistently allow shocking videos of animal cruelty to remain live — able to be shared and viewed by billions of people around the world.

Yahoo News Australia first raised the videos — which run rampant on Meta platforms — with the social media giant last week, and though they were slammed by animal rights advocates, including both PETA and World Animal Protection, Meta said they won't be removing a single one.

In some footage, young animals are seen stuffed into jars, tied up with rope, suffocated, drowned, and in one particularly grotesque clip, a baby monkey is seen attacked by a pack of dogs as it lies defenceless on the ground while a person records and laughs.

Animal cruelty videos are seen on Facebook.
Facebook's parent company Meta is facing mounting pressure to remove hundreds of heinous animal cruelty videos from online. Source: Yahoo News Australia.

Meta told Yahoo News in response, despite a staff member admitting they found the footage disturbing, the videos wouldn't be pulled as they did not violate community guidelines. "We understand that this is not an easy situation and we would like to be as helpful as possible," a spokesperson said.

"To foster free and open dialogue, we allow the community to speak freely and engage with one another. We understand that this content may be hurtful in some contexts and that our rules are not perfect. This is an ongoing process, we are constantly re-evaluating how to balance our commitment to free expression."

In the wake of the response labelled by some as "disgusting", Aussies have spoken about "stupid, frustrating" and mundane reasons they've been banned or blocked by Meta themselves, while other "deeply upsetting" content is endorsed. These are just three instances, with Yahoo News aware of dozens of similar stories.

Natalie and Scott Jarvis, business owners

Melbourne business owners Natalie and Scott Jarvis, who run a bespoke LED neon sign company Electric Confetti, said that in 2022, just days before Black Friday — their busiest period — they were banned from all Meta platforms. Without notice or reasoning, the couple were left "extremely frustrated" and out of pocket thousands of dollars

"As an e-com business, we were unable to run ads and actually fulfil our ability throughout that period due to the taking down of our audience — our ability to market. We've got 90,000 followers," Mr Jarvis told Yahoo News Australia.

"You cannot quantify it (the money lost). I'm not making this up — you're talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of potential revenue."

It took a week until the Melburnians had their profiles restored, and after the saga attracted media attention, a representative of Instagram even reached out to the couple to apologise.

"They called to apologise for that discretion, but you know, that was them wiping their hands of it to say that we've dealt with a matter," Mr Jarvis said. "It was all mentally very scarring and disturbing, because we were really in this abyss — we could have never got it back. And how do you come back from that? It was just so brutal and so fast."

Sophia Rambaldini, model

Sydney-based model Sophia Rambaldini said she's been given two lengthy social media bans in the space of just a year. In the first instance, she was told by Meta her Instagram profile had violated their community guidelines due to the fact she was topless in an image, although Ms Rambaldini said there "was no nipple showing".

The 30-year-old explained that despite having made a huge attempt to "tone down" her content to avoid being blocked a second time, it was fruitless, having received a second six-month ban shortly after, which she is still "serving".

"In my defence, I never actually showed full-nipple," she told Yahoo. "There was always an emoji covering me. So as far as I'm still concerned, I wasn't actually not following guidelines."

Ms Rambaldini branded the move a huge "double standard", citing the fact that men are bare-chested in photos all the time. "And I basically have a man's chest as well," she joked. "I actually tried to kind of pull back my content a little bit and not be quite as 'crazy' and I still got disabled."

Working as a model, Ms Rambaldini said not being able to use social media has been a huge obstacle when trying to attract new jobs, and she's likely lost a significant amount of income.

"It's quite frustrating. It's like I never existed on Instagram now," she said. "And the last time this happened, they were supposed to reactivate me, and they didn't. And I actually had to reach out to get them to do it. I'm dubious about whether they just say the ban is for a period of time, expecting that you'll just forget about it."

Sydney model Sophia Rambaldini.
Sydney model Sophia Rambaldini was left unable to source work after she was banned from Instagram and Facebook. Source: Supplied.

Carly Sophia, writer

Carly Sophia, a Sydney writer, said after sharing a "beauty dupe" on her Instagram page, she was wrongfully reported and, "without even looking into the matter", was blocked by Meta.

"I shared a beauty 'dupe' on my instagram last year, and a multi-million dollar cosmetics company wrongly reported me for IP theft. Without even looking into it, Meta instantly deactivated my verified account," she told Yahoo News Australia.

"Beauty dupes are a booming corner of the cosmetics industry, and they're also legally permissible since they’re not counterfeit goods — they're just inspired by (and an affordable alternative to) expensive, high-end products.

"The fact that Meta was so quick to wipe my account proved to me that they absolutely prioritise big business with their hundreds of thousands of dollars of ad revenue over content creators and the small communities that they work hard to foster."

Sydney writer Carly Sophia.
Sydney writer Carly Sophia said Meta unfairly target women when banning social media accounts. Source: Supplied.

The 31-year-old said she was easily out of pocket thousands of dollars thanks to Meta's wrongful deactivation of her accounts, which were later reinstalled "after assessing evidence".

"In the five days that Meta deliberated over my case appeal, I lost not only my audience, but $3,000 in pulled brand deals. It has taken me years to establish an online presence, and my Instagram account not only housed all of my work, but served as a time capsule for my life over the last 12 years," she said.

"I not only faced having to rebuild everything again from scratch, but the very real possibility that over a decade's worth of photos and memories would be completely lost. I do believe that they have scant regard for accounts that serve no commercial usefulness to them, and I absolutely believe policies on nudity unfairly target women."

Since sharing her story, the writer said she's been inundated by people reporting accounts for scams, identity theft, bullying and says none of them are taken down.

"But irk a big brand with a silly little post about make-up, and you can kiss everything you’ve worked for goodbye! Meta could be using their might to shut down trafficking, weapons and drug dealing, solicitation, fraud. But nope! Keeping themselves busy with lipgloss and nipples. Ridiculous.

"Go shut down a meth lab or something. Honestly."

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