No political ads on Instagram? That’s a new one for us.
Recently, the Apicha Community Health Center, a New York City primary care center that focuses on serving people of color, LGBTQ people, and people living with HIV, tried to run an ad campaign on Instagram to promote awareness of PrEP. PrEP is a drug that works to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV. Unfortunately, Instagram rejected the ad with the reasoning that they don’t “run ads about social issues, elections or politics.”
“They said the copy was the problem but were unable to tell us what part of the copy was too political,” said Phillip Miner, Apicha’s Director of Grants and Communications, to VICE. “It’s incredibly frustrating to encounter these sort of road blocks.”
After catching wind of this story, news sources like VICE were quick to point out that Instagram is owned by Facebook. And we have become painfully aware of the fact that Facebook has no qualms with being paid advertisement money to promote political posts.
“I just think that in a democracy people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying, and I think that people should make up their own minds about which candidates are credible and which candidates have the kind of character that they want to see in their elected officials,” said Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg during a hearing with the House Financial Services Committed this past Wednesday, according to Vox.
Of course, we must keep in mind that Instagram is a separate company despite being owned by Facebook. While Facebook and co. are “a family of companies,” Instagram was assured of its independence when Facebook bought it.
In addition, Instagram has recently been playing with new rules and regulations for the betterment of its users’ experience. Last month, Instagram announced plans to block Instagram posts that promote weight loss programs or cosmetic procedures. This is in addition to cracking down on hashtags like #VaccinescauseAIDS, releasing tools to help users manage time on the app better, and testing the removal of likes so people can focus more on the content they share and not on how many likes a post gets.
“We want Instagram to be a positive place for everyone that uses it and this policy is part of our ongoing work to reduce the pressure that people can sometimes feel as a result of social media,” Instagram’s public policy manager Emma Collins said in a statement.
All that said, how do ads promoting the use of PrEP count as something political enough to be rejected? Perhaps Instagram just needs fine-tuning with its policies. Perhaps there was one homophobic company member who rejected the ad? Or perhaps, Instagram truly feels an ad trying to better the lives of those at risk of HIV transmission is too political for its digital space. Unfortunately, we won’t know for sure.