The 10 people who spoke to NBC News included famous porn stars, OnlyFans models who have never posed nude, and people who have done sex work. All of them said that Instagram has become indispensable for their careers, their income and for organizing the larger community of sex workers.

“We don’t want anyone to feel marginalized by our policies, including adult creators, but it’s important to keep our youngest users in mind when deciding what we do and don’t allow on Instagram, as teens as young as 13 use our platform. a Meta spokesperson said in a statement. Meta is the parent company of Facebook and Instagram.

Moderation around sex has become so pervasive that a wide variety of accounts, not just from porn artists, have faced restrictions they see as unwarranted, from the business account of one of the world’s largest pornography websites, Pornhub, to sex educators and non-porn OnlyFans creators. The creators say inconsistencies in the site’s policies abound, making it difficult to navigate the rules and guidelines. While the Pornhub account has been removed, the OnlyFans account is allowed to exist. Some adult actresses’ accounts remain intact, while others do not.

Since 2020, accounts that post about sex education have reported being unexpectedly disabledthat it can be appealed, and that the platform deletes its publications permanently.

Erika Moen, an artist and author who creates educational content about the body and sex, said Instagram may be a particularly important platform as sex education is criticized in some parts of the US.

“He is depriving people. This is your only resource for finding this information,” Moen said, referring to recent efforts that have focused on sex education in schools and libraries.

Many of the people who spoke to NBC News said their content has been banned from Instagram under their Sexual Solicitation Policy. The policy says that Meta allows discussion of «advocacy for the rights of sex workers,» but does not allow content that «facilitates, encourages, or coordinates» commercial sex work, to avoid facilitating sex trafficking.

That policy was introduced in October 2018, six months after SESTA-FOSTA was signed into law, making tech companies liable if prostitution ads are found on their websites.

Not long after that law was enacted, the Internet economics for adult creators changed.

Platforms that allow people to directly sell pornography and nude or sexy images, such as OnlyFans, have grown in popularity since 2020, creating a new pipeline of monetization for influencers.

That has left adult content creators walking a fine line, striving to stay within the rules when posting photos of themselves in lingerie or bikinis. Still, your accounts may be suspended. Two adult stars with more than 2.5 million followers each shared screenshots of Instagram notifications saying they had violated the Sexual Solicitation Policy. The posts featured the artists in lingerie, which the women say does not violate Instagram’s policies.

That conflict between the rise of major online adult platforms and Instagram’s sexual repression has left some creators struggling and sometimes pushed into more dangerous sex work, two industry people said.

SESTA-FOSTA was supposed to counter sex trafficking but, in practice, four entertainers, the national trade organization for the adult industry and a tech policy expert told NBC News that it has taken to social media platforms, including Instagram, to clamp down on the content. Let’s just say it has nothing to do with trafficking.

«Because it’s so ambiguous and the platforms aren’t really sure what could cause them problems with content that’s even adjacent to sexual content, they err on the side of excessive removal,» said Evan Greer, director of digital rights for the nonprofit for profit Fight for the future.

TO three year report on sex trafficking from the US Government Accountability Office published in 2021 found that SESTA-FOSTA had only been used successfully once by a federal prosecutor, and that the online commercial sex market had fragmented since the introduction of the legislation, making it difficult for law enforcement to gather advice and evidence.

Sex workers and individuals affected by the increased moderation of their Instagram accounts say the actions taken against them have undoubtedly changed their experience using the app and interfere with their income generated by the app. They say the way Instagram moderates them can make the difference between them thriving or barely surviving.

«Imagine that stress, imagine waking up every morning and wondering if you’ve lost your race,» DeVille said of checking Instagram earlier in the day.Nolwen Cifuentes for NBC News

Elle Stanger, a sex worker, podcast host and certified sex educator, said she was suspended three times from Instagram, where she has 164,000 Instagram followers, and lost 40% of her income since 2019, when Instagram made changes to its solicitation policy. sexual.

“People who worked in the industry became poorer because they couldn’t advertise,” he said. “They were in danger, because to make ends meet we started doing more dangerous jobs.”

Adult star Abigail Mac, who has 2.6 million followers on Instagram, said her account has been suspended at least four times. She said that she has gotten it back every time she emails Instagram 10 to 15 times every day for three to four weeks.

And every time, Mac said, he gets emails from Instagram saying his account was accidentally deleted and is now restored.

Trip Richards, a transgender man who originally engaged in sex work to finance his transition, said his Instagram account with 35,000 followers was suspended twice. He said both times he was only able to get it back after contacting a personal connection on Instagram. Richards said part of his consideration when uploading to Instagram is the wording of the captions, as using the word «sex» can result in a post being removed, even if it’s educational.

“I quoted myself from an article I was writing on issues related to trans sex work,” Richards said. “I forgot to censor every time I wrote the word ‘sex’, with an asterisk or whatever. I forgot, I hit ‘post’, two seconds later the post was down. There was nothing obscene about it, I just used the word ‘sex’, and that’s another hit on my account.»

Natassia Dreams, a Black trans porn artist who now has 20,000 followers on Instagram, said her first Instagram account with 70,000 followers was permanently deleted in 2020 after 10 years of the account’s existence. Since then, she has created about 12 new accounts, she told Dreams.

Before joining Pornhub as a creator ambassador and restarting her current Instagram, Dreams said she left the platform entirely.

«Now I’ve got it back and I’m careful, very careful, but the last time the platform was removed I didn’t post anything explicit, I posted a photo of a workout in the gym,» Dreams said. “It is very frustrating for me because I feel like they are trying to erase my existence in the world and I am already fighting society for my existence and my place in the world.”