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A Look at the Aftermath of Meta’s Crackdown on Sex-Positive Content

Social media is becoming increasingly hostile toward the sexual wellness world. The latest example: In a potentially catastrophic move for brands and marketers within the sexual wellness space, Meta recently undertook a savage mass culling of sex-positive Instagram accounts. The social media giant did not issue any prior warning before deactivating and deplatforming numerous accounts — not just of influencers, but of brands, organizations and educators. This is only the latest indication that, even as our industry continues to grow exponentially in market strength and reputation, mainstream social media platforms simply do not know how to handle us.

The aftermath of Meta’s purge

Now is the time for brands, marketers and public figures as a collective unit to make a stand and continue to illuminate and oppose the attack on sexual freedom and education.

It seems ironic and hypocritical that Meta carried out this action during Pride month, rainbow-washing its brands even while deplatforming communities where queer, sex-positive and kinkster people find safety and solidarity.

Many of the influencers and brands whose accounts were removed were left with more questions than answers, despite appeals to Meta to reinstate their accounts. Protests from influential community members have led to Meta restoring a few accounts, such as that of Erika Lust’s nonprofit porn-literacy organization The Porn Conversation. Meta eventually issued a statement saying that some accounts were “removed in error,” but it seems to have come only as a result of the uproar and backlash that the move provoked.

The wider effects of this hostility toward sex education, sexual wellness information and other related content will have a ripple effect on marketers who rely on social media outreach and influencer campaigns as an important strand of their overall digital marketing approach.

Little Leaf is an agency focused on championing and furthering sexual wellness. Like many others, we and our clients have long had to navigate vague restrictions and ever-changing policies in order to avoid having our voices taken from us. This is a danger that mainstream brands don’t have to worry about in the same way that we do. We’ve had to dance around mercurial regulations concerning nudity and sexually explicit content, with a complex combination of redacted phrases, inventive emoji usage and cropped images. Marketers must be increasingly inventive and adaptable to succeed in the marketplace, as anything that the algorithm flags as deviating from these rules can result in shadow-banning — or, as we have seen in recent days, complete account removal.

The effect on brands and the public

Even temporary removal can be devastating for accounts that have built a following on social media, as it cancels an essential method of converting brand awareness to sales. Content creators and influencers lend brands their reputation, which can be a great way to create an authentic and reliable promotion. Meta’s increasingly strict limitations on what language can be used in posts poses several challenges for businesses using influencer marketing as part of their B2C sales strategies.

Perhaps more importantly, this crackdown on content restricts the availability of vital sex education materials. With 90% of teens aged 13-17 using social media, and TikTok rising to compete with Google as a search engine, social media is quickly becoming the landscape wherein young people are finding answers to their questions about their bodies, relationships and their lives as a whole. Social media is the only access that some people have to information about sex, our bodies, and intimacy. Prohibiting this content could stifle education in ways that have dangerous consequences.

Time to take a stand

The Golden Age of adult social media has been waning. Since the decline of Tumblr, we have been lacking that brave platform that is willing to step up and be comfortable with sex. Yet despite this adversity, our community has accomplished much in a short amount of time. Campaigns like Lover Management’s #stopdeletingus, and journalistic exposes such as those in Wired and Fast Company, have helped shine a direct light upon the controversy surrounding this issue and the injustice at its heart. Our voices have reached the ears of Meta and resulted in the reinstatement of some accounts.

This is something to be proud of, but the work doesn’t stop here. Now is the time for brands, marketers and public figures as a collective unit to make a stand and continue to illuminate and oppose the attack on sexual freedom and education. We may not be able to control what Meta will do next or how the mainstream media looks upon the industry, but we’ll never stop fighting in the pursuit of fairness, equality and visibility.

Scarlett Ward is the affiliate and influencer manager at Little Leaf Agency, a PR and communications agency dedicated to sexual wellness.


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