Instagram denies plus-size swimwear company ads, hurting small business

Posted at 12:11 PM, Aug 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 12:11:04-04

The owner of swimwear company Night Dive Swim is telling other business owners about a hurdle that delayed her selling products on Instagram.

The swimwear company sells bathing suits in sizes small to 3X. All of the images of her models are un-retouched, and many of the models are plus-size.

“Everything I can do to spread self-confidence, that’s kind of the goal of the brand,” explained owner Heather Brown.

Women's bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and the founder of Night Dive Swim wants that to be celebrated. She is sharing her philosphy of rejoicing in the beauty of curves, some hints to look and feel more confident in a swimsuit no matter your size, and ways she thinks we can do better when it comes to issues raised on social media. Join the conversation and share your thoughts!

Posted by Ashleigh Walters on Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Two weeks ago, Brown took the time to upload all of her newest products to the “Instagram Shop.”

“I had uploaded the photos for all of the products that I carry, which takes time, a lot of time. And all of a sudden I was looking at the Instagram app and I had a notification that 20-something products were not approved, and all at one time. So it was very curious,” she said.

She says none of the photos appeared to violate Instagram’s terms of use, but Instagram had flagged them as “Products with Overtly Sexualized Positioning.”

Brown appealed the denials, but wasn’t getting a response or approval. That’s when Brown decided to share her experience with her social media followers and potential customers. She received responses from several other women and business owners who claimed to have had a similar experience.

Several plus-size influencers have shared stories of similar issues with photographs being denied from social media.

"I’m looking for answers as to why these photos were flagged, when they’re just like any other swimwear company out there,” Brown said.

In March, Brown says she tried to purchase a promotional ad on Instagram, to hopes of reaching a wider audience. The feature is helpful to small business owners, Brown says, because it allows a direct link to the consumer, who doesn’t have to take the step of visiting her site.

Brown received a message that said “Your promotion was not approved. This ad isn’t running because it includes an image or video depicting excessive skin or nudity, which includes medical diagrams depicting external organs of reproduction, breasts, or butt. This kind of material is sensitive in nature.”

She appealed the rejection with Instagram, but she received no response or approval for the next 5 months.

WPTV reached out to Instagram about the issues. A communications representative responded, “We looked into the ads and found they were rejected in error. We apologize for the mistake and have approved all of them.”

However, Instagram has not yet responded to questions about banning procedures, how images are identified as “overtly sexual” and banned from view, or if artificial intelligence or an algorithm is used.

Following Instagram’s reply this week, the status for Brown’s ads she had placed in March changed from “Not Approved” and “Appeal in Progress” to “Complete,” but showed they had not run. Some of the products more recently posted on @NightDiveSwim were approved, but as of Thursday morning, several were still pending approval.

Brown says she will continue to work hard as a small business owner who aims to please her customer. She wants to do even more to offer extended sizing, and she hopes other businesses will continue to open up in the conversation. She is hopeful other small business owners don’t confront the same delays in getting their products through the helpful tool of Instagram Shop.