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Updated: Tue, 13 May 2014 11:11:25 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Mom's Instagram account shut down over breastfeeding selfie



Heather Bays says her Instagram account was deactivated on Saturday evening, after someone made negative comments about photographs she posted of herself breastfeeding her 20-month-old daughter. CBC

Heather Bays says her Instagram account was deactivated on Saturday evening, after someone made negative comments about photographs she posted of herself breastfeeding her 20-month-old daughter. CBC

A former Winnipegger who posted on Instagram a photograph of herself breastfeeding is battling the social networking site after it briefly shut down the account of the now Toronto resident. 

Heather Bays, a maternity photographer who has almost 2,000 pictures on the popular photo-sharing service, said her account was deactivated on Saturday evening — right before Mother's Day.

"This is discrimination not only against mothers, but against women," she told CBC News on Monday.

Bays said it started when someone posted a negative comment on a selfie of her breastfeeding her 20-month-old daughter.

"Somebody wrote on there, 'Not cool,'" she said.

Hours later, Bays said she received several emails from Instagram saying some of her pictures violated its terms of use.

With her account deactivated, she said she lost thousands of photographs and her entire business social network. She said she did not get answers right away from Instagram or Facebook, which owns the service.

"I contacted them numerous times [Sunday] and I did not receive a single response from them," she said. "I cannot contact them to give them my side of the story."

She reached out to social media to plead her case, and Instagram later agreed to reactivate her account — with some of her photographs removed.

Some photos considered child pornography

Bays said Instagram staff told her the photographs were removed not because they depicted breastfeeding, but because they showed her young daughter topless.

"Now they're telling me that any photo that has a child even showing their torso is called child pornography," she said.

"For them to say that to me was unbelievably insulting."

As of late Monday, Instagram did not specify which photographs it had objections about, she said.

A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on Bays's case but told CBC News it generally allows photographs of breastfeeding.

Instagram's terms of use state that users may not post "nude [or] partially nude" content.

An Instagram help centre article says it does allow breastfeeding pictures and "the vast majority of these photos are compliant with our policies," but adds that "photos that show a fully exposed breast where the child isn't actively engaged in nursing aren't following our Community Guidelines."

It adds that the photos it reviews are "almost exclusively brought to our attention by other Instagram members who report them."

Facebook's community standards state that it has a "strict policy against the sharing of pornographic content and any explicitly sexual content where a minor is involved. We also impose limitations on the display of nudity."

At the same time, it says, "We aspire to respect people’s right to share content of personal importance, whether those are photos of a sculpture like Michelangelo's David or family photos of a child breastfeeding."

But Bays said both social media services should review their policies. She plans to post more breastfeeding photographs to make her point clear.

"Every single day, women are shamed for just being women, for being mothers," she said.

"That's not OK ... This has to stop."

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