Instagram Suspends Tiny Parents' Rights Account Amid Bid for 'Friendly' Social Media Dominance

(Edited from Getty Images)
July 11, 2023

Instagram briefly shut down an upstart account run by parents opposed to state-mandated gender ideology as the social media giant moved to expand its dominance of online discourse.

The account—which is dedicated to opposing California Assembly Bill 957, a controversial piece of legislation that would punish parents who do not "affirm" their child's gender identity—was deactivated hours after it was created on Wednesday. The parents appealed the decision, and Instagram restored the account, @StopAB957, on Friday. A spokeswoman for Instagram parent company Meta, formerly known as Facebook, said the account had been incorrectly flagged as violating the website's community guidelines.

"The account has no violations at current," the spokeswoman told the Washington Free Beacon.

Instagram's targeting of @StopAB957, which boasts just 113 followers and 4 posts, came the same day the company launched a fast-growing Twitter alternative, Instagram Threads, that free speech watchdogs have already accused of censoring conservative users and critics of left-wing gender ideology.

"It's hard to say [the suspension of @StopAB957] was censorship because we had barely said anything," said Nicole Pearson, an attorney who contributed information about the legislation for the Instagram account. "They didn't even let us say anything to censor."

Three of the account’s posts criticized A.B. 957, which would require judges in custody disputes to disfavor parents who fail to affirm their child's gender identity. The fourth featured a video of a parents' rights activist questioning Gov. Gavin Newsom (D.) about California's policies encouraging sex changes for minors. The account has made no new posts since it was reinstated.

A volunteer who manages @StopAB957 and who asked to remain anonymous for fear of professional retaliation said that Instagram never responded to her questions about why exactly the account was suspended. In an email to the Free Beacon, Meta suggested the suspension was a technical error rather than ideological overreach.

Meta has leveraged its two billion users to make Instagram Threads the fastest-growing website ever, drawing more than 100 million sign-ups in less than a week. In the launch announcement, Meta promised to keep Threads "positive" in implicit contrast with the unrestrained discourse allowed on Twitter under billionaire owner Elon Musk.

Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, told the New York Times last week that Meta decided to create Threads specifically to respond to "product changes and decisions" that Musk made at Twitter.

"Right now it's just very friendly in there," Mosseri said of Threads on Thursday. "Now, we'll see what it looks like when the gates blow open and anyone and everyone can join. But the vibes are good in there right now."

Meta cofounder Mark Zuckerberg, who in 2019 strongly defended free speech, has acknowledged that the company censored true information about COVID-19 at the behest of experts, along with stories about Hunter Biden's laptop after an FBI warning. National Democrats and liberal critics faulted Meta, however, for amplifying "misinformation" in support of Donald Trump's 2020 presidential campaign, and the company has since stepped up content moderation.

"Since 2016 we've invested more than $16 billion in building up the teams and technologies needed to protect our users," Meta said in announcing Instagram Threads, "and we remain focused on advancing our industry-leading integrity efforts and investments to protect our community."