this picture of two men kissing was deleted by instagram because it violates community guidelines

An image we shared last week from photographer Stella Asia Consonni was promptly deleted by the social media platform. Olly Alexander, Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall and Sink the Pink’s Glyn Fussell all took to Instagram to protest.

by Georgie Wright; photos by Stella Asia Consonni
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02 July 2018, 4:08pm

Last week we posted a photo story by photographer Stella Asia Consonni, of a handful of couples of embracing and snogging. In our opinion, the most contentious thing was the headline: "is pizza the only thing better than love?" It seems that some people thought otherwise.

Soon after we published the piece on Friday, Stella posted a screenshot of the piece on Instagram, the main image of two men kissing. It’s a beautiful image. “It received many lovely comments,” she tells us. “But also countless horrible hate ones.” Which is horrendous, if not surprising -- despite the huge strides we’ve made as a society in terms of LGBTQ rights, we still live in a world plagued with homophobia.

Arguably more concerning than slanderous messages from individual bigots, was one of the biggest social media platforms in the world deleting the posts because it supposedly didn’t abide by their rules. “On Saturday morning I opened Instagram and received a message saying that the image had been deleted because it didn't follow their community guidelines,” Stella explains. So she went and read every single one of them -- but couldn’t find anything applicable to the image. There was no unblurred nipples, no sex, no “close-ups of fully-nude buttocks.”

“I assumed that maybe it had been reported several times by haters and as consequence removed”, Stella explains, “but after an online research I found out that the number of times something is reported does not determine whether or not something is removed.”

The story was quickly picked up by a number of prominent figures in the LGBTQ community, including Olly Alexander from Years & Years, Glyn Fussell from club night Sink the Pink and Jade Thirlwall from Little Mix. They all -- aptly -- took to Instagram to express their frustration.

“Just been informed @instagram removed the following image for being ‘offensive and against community guidelines’” Olly posted on Instastories, adding, “Ummmmm??!!! Please can you provide a response @instagram.” Jade asked, “How is this ‘offensive and against guidelines’... Would this be the same for a heterosexual couple kissing?” And Glyn Fussell said, “@instagram i am disgusted by your blatant homophobia! By removing this beautiful image you show your true colours! Please all share and demand a response”.

While Instagram haven’t responded publicly yet, the post was soon put back up, followed by an email to Stella from someone at the company. “I wanted to reach out personally and sincerely apologise for your picture being taken down. It was removed in error and was reinstated last night,” the apology read.

Stella response? “This doesn’t really change much,” she told us. “I think it's just a very tiny part in a much deeper issue.”

Of course, we can’t say why the post was removed. Instagram have apologised and claimed it was an error. But regardless, the initial decision to take down a photo of two fully clothed men kissing sent a message, one at odds with the Pride efforts erupting worldwide this month.

“When I moved to London 10 years ago, I found home at the Joiners Arms -- an amazing gay venue in Hackney road that unfortunately closed down few years ago,” Stella says. “This event made me think about all the bullshit that my lovely friends have to deal with on a daily basis. Few of them even moved to London because they couldn't stand the hate and bullying in their home country. No one deserves that.”

Add this to the torrents of abuse and death threats Stella received for the photo, and it’s a pretty bleak situation. Fortunately, for every troll, there’s someone ready to call them out on their bullshit. “It made me think that maybe our world is not completely rotten,” Stella says of everyone who shared the picture and commented messages of support.

Ironically, the whole ordeal just reinforces the importance of work like Stella’s. The necessity of inclusivity and visibility of love in all manifestations. As we wrote about the images at the time, “It’s easy to get swept away by waves of positivity when you’re at peak romance. But it’s during the shit bits that we need hope the most. When the world’s awash with hate and hurt. When we need to sit down in the shower, sweat mingling with soap and tears, water beating down on us until it runs cold. It’s in these moments that we need to remember that love exists, and it is pure, and we will be ok.”

So we’ve put the images below for you to have another look. Share them on your Instagram, credit @StellaAsiaConsonni, and spread the love. All the love.