Metro Weekly

Instagram Flagged a Picture of Gay Dads with Baby as “Graphic” Content

A Meta spokesperson confirmed that the post had been erroneously tagged and that the image had been restored.

The censored image from Instagram - Photo: Men Having Babies.
The censored image from Instagram – Photo: Men Having Babies

Instagram censored an image of two real-life husbands with their newborn as “sensitive” and “graphic” content.

The image was eventually restored. 

Men Having Babies, a nonprofit that assists gay men in building families by pursuing surrogacy options, posted the image to promote an educational conference in Berlin in April.

But soon after the picture was posted, Instagram censored it with a black message screen that forced users to click to view the image.

“Sensitive Content,” the message screen read. “This photo may contain graphic or violent content… [or] images that some people might find upsetting.”

Later, an error message appeared on the link to the picture, which could no longer be viewed at all.

The image features a real-life couple, Sam and David, and their child Jude. The two fathers are seen nuzzling Jude with one father kissing the baby’s head. There is no graphic, violent, or sexual content in the image.

Instagram has previously allowed pictures of lesbian or heterosexual couples nuzzling babies to remain on the site without being censored.

Following action from Meta, the image was restored and now appears on the Men Having Babies Instagram account.

“We apologize as this post was labeled mistakenly and has since been corrected,” a Meta spokesperson told Metro Weekly in an email.

Ron Poole-Dayan, the executive director of Men Having Babies, told LGBTQ Nation that while there was no evidence that the photo was deliberately censored, implicit societal bias often makes people suspicious of two men who seek to raise children.

While Poole-Dayan did not expound upon the reasons for that bias, such views may be rooted in decades-old stereotypes, recently revived by anti-LGBTQ activists, that gay men are child abusers, “groomers” who are trying to recruit children to their cause, or, due to their alleged promiscuity and the lack of a mother figure, are incapable of providing a stable home for children. 

“People don’t see us as natural parents,” Poole-Dayan said. “Some cannot easily forget that [gay men are] also sexual beings,” noting that some people may view the idea of two men raising children as something “threatening” or “worthy of scrutiny.”

Poole-Dayan also claimed that this instance isn’t the first time that Meta, which owns Instagram and Facebook, has censored images from Men Having Babies.

Poole-Dayan doesn’t know whether an automated system or human reporting caused the censorship, but also said that the image could have been erroneously tagged as “sensitive” if someone familiar with German laws outlawing surrogacy flagged or reported it.

He noted, for example, that a nearly identical image promoting a similar conference in San Francisco — where there are no laws outlawing surrogacy — was not censored.

Surrogacy and adoption aren’t available to male same-sex couples in Europe, except in the United Kingdom, and many European countries criminalize commercial surrogacy, where a woman agrees to carry a baby to term for a childless couple in exchange for compensation.

Opponents of commercial surrogacy, including anti-LGBTQ activists, traditional conservatives, and feminists, routinely argue that the practice can lead to the exploitation of poor women. 

Additionally, in countries like Italy, Poland, and Hungary, there is also a backlash against LGBTQ visibility and families headed by same-sex couples, with Italy even threatening to strip away or refuse to recognize the rights of non-biological parents in same-sex unions.

Poole-Dayan noted that the bias against same-sex fathers can be found in the United States, where some insurance companies won’t cover children born via surrogacy or neonatal care for premature infants born to same-sex fathers.

“I think the bigger message, especially when it comes to Europe, is that part of our human dignity and equality is in reproductive justice,” he told LGBTQ Nation. “We are worthy of being good parents, and that it is part of our human nature, and that doesn’t change when you’re gay.”

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