On social media sites, its important to have certain content standards and guidelines and to have users enforce these standards through reporting. In general these rules keep these sites clean and safe, filtering out illegal or graphic content.
But it turns out the reporting system can also be abused and misused—sometimes in cruel ways, as one mother of a disabled child found out recently.
Charlie Beswick, from Stoke-on-Trent, England, is the mother of two 12-year-old twins named Oliver and Harry. Like many mothers, she posts about her children frequently online and documents their day-to-day life in a blog called Our Altered Life.
But unlike most mothers, her son Harry has Goldenhar syndrome—a condition that leaves him with only one eye, nostril and ear. He’s also non-verbal autistic.
Raising a child with special needs is never easy, especially when your child has such a rare and noticeable condition.
“Life is as challenging as it is rewarding at times,” Charlie wrote on her site’s info section.
But in general, Charlie’s site is a portrait of a happy and loving home, with Harry receiving full support from his mother and twin.
And most notably, Charlie has no shame about Harry’s condition—she posts countless photos of her son, out in public enjoying life like any child.
She naturally assumed that her followers on social media felt the same way, and accepted and understood Harry’s appearance.
So when she posted this photo of her son without his prosthetic eye to Instagram, she thought nothing of it.
But Charlie was confused a few days later when she discovered that the photo was no longer on the social media site.
She was shocked when she found out the reason—the photo didn’t meet Instagram’s “guidelines.”
This meant somebody didn’t like the photo and reported it, and Instagram took it down. And this wasn’t the first time it had happened.
“This isn’t the first time Instagram have done this. It’s the second time they’ve taken an image off,” Charlie told The Sun. “Both times were when he didn’t have his prosthetic eye in—it’s specifically those pictures Instagram or someone is finding offensive.”
“He has had a lot of surgery to create those sockets so I’m proud to show it off.”
Upset with Instagram, she told her story on Facebook and Twitter.
In a September 12th Facebook post that has received over 500 shares, Charlie describes her frustrations and feelings of insult towards her child:
“What do you see when you look at my boy? I see the most beautiful smile, wonderful heart & purest love,” she wrote, alongside a photo of Harry.
“Sadly some people on Instagram feel that it’s too much to look at and have reported a picture of him (again).”
She points out that despite the few apparent haters, the former post “had well over 2300 likes and more than 200 lovely comments of support.”
“Instagram need to rectify this discrimination!” she wrote.
“It really upset me to have my child’s face taken off the platform and that it contravened some sort of guidelines,” she told The Sun.
“Had they taken 30 seconds to look at the image they would see it was really well received and a high engagement post for them.”
But as the internet rallied behind Charlie, it seems she finally got Instagram’s attention—the site reinstated the photo on their site.
For Charlie, this was about more than restoring the photo—it was about sending a message of acceptance, and to hopefully change their policies for the future.
“I’m glad to have my boys image back where it belongs,” she wrote on another Instagram post, “but still feel that the ‘guidelines’ that my son’s face didn’t meet need changing.”
“This face matters.”