Dr Carolina Are

NAME: Dr Carolina Are
PLATFORM & USERNAME: Insta – @bloggeronpole
CENSORSHIP: Account, Content Ban, Shadow Ban

What reason was given for your ban?

Users are not notified for shadowbanning, but I received confirmation of the shadowbanning of pole dance hashtags by IG in 2019: My IG account was also unfairly deleted without warning or explanation in July 2021 after I posted a picture with my grandma, and was then restored after media interest – I was told it was deleted “in error”. My TikTok was deleted 4 times in 2021 alone, and I was told that as long as I posted “implied nudity” my account would be flagged: It was also always restored after journalistic articles about me. Most recently, a reportage about me by Brut Media that I shared on my LinkedIn was deleted for violations of community guidelines. It still has to be restored.

Why do you think your post(s) was censored?

I’m a pole dance instructor and I practice and teach a sport created by strippers. Therefore, I’m often in a bikini – both as a stylistic choice and because I need nudity to grip on the pole. The combo “metal pole + butt-naked chick” is often flagged by social media platforms, who after FOSTA/SESTA are over-censoring content to prevent themselves from being seen to be facilitating sex trafficking. In reality, as I argue in my academic papers, this censorship is trickling down to all sorts of users who have nothing to do with trafficking, and it’s making sex workers’ life increasingly more difficult and unsafe.

Were you able to appeal and what was the response?

Yes, always. More often than not, through conventional platforms appeals my post would be deleted even upon second review. Only when speaking to media or when speaking to my contacts at Facebook Policy or TikTok I would get posts or accounts back.

What effect has your experience of censorship had on you?

It’s a continuous, frustrating game of whack-a-mole with platforms, so much that I’ve ended up blending my PhD in the moderation of online abuse with my experiences of censorship, writing papers about it. It’s ineffective moderation, and it makes earning a living as a creator and pole dance instructor difficult and stressful – when your profile is deleted, your voice is silenced and your livelihood is at risk. Because I know the legal and technical processes that trigger moderation, and I’m well-versed in the politics of platforms, this is all the more frustrating. There’s a sense of powerlessness that comes with being a naked creator on social media, in the sense that posting content feels transient until the next deletion.

What’s one thing you want people to know about this topic?

Nudity is a form of freedom of expression, and it’s being co-opted by far-right, religious groups to be seen as the ultimate online harm. This is triggering laws that are making platforms buckle down under pressure – causing harm to lives and livelihoods. Sex workers find trading online safer; survivors like me, sex educators, pole dancers, creators have found online spaces to be a safe, open space to learn, talk and network. It pains me to see that people with my same experiences of sexual assault and domestic abuse may not find communities to heal and love their bodies again because of censorship.