Wednesday, October 16, 2013

An Open Letter to Instagram

Dear Instagram,

As you may know, October is Down Syndrome awareness month. This month is in place to help promote acceptance, inclusion, appreciation, and respect for people with Down Syndrome across the U.S.  As you probably also know, many people in the IG community use #downsyndrome to make fun of how they look in pictures or when they're doing something dumb in a picture. Imagine that you are a family member scrolling through pictures tagged #downsyndrome to see other beautiful faces of kids and adults who are experiencing life as you do and then you stumble across some of these hateful and ugly pictures. Clearly #downsyndrome is being used as a joke and an insult. Because, obviously, people with Down Syndrome make stupid faces all the time, do dumb things, and are generally a laughable presence in our society. Oh, that's just the ugly stereotype that is being perpetuated by these ignorant folks. And it's also being perpetuated by Instagram for not taking down these pictures when they are reported as harassment or bullying.

I have tried to engage some of these people to explain why the hashtag #downsyndrome is hurtful in that context. I've had a couple of people respond respectfully that they were wrong and promise to stop using it. Most have been hateful, telling me things like, "There is a cure for Down Syndrome. It's called abortion." As a mother of a beautiful son who has DS, you can probably imagine how devastating a comment like that is.

On behalf of the large Down Syndrome community here on Instagram, I am asking that you look at your harassment/bullying policy and update it to include that pictures with the hashtag #downsyndrome will be removed when reported or, at the very least, the offending comment and hashtag will be removed from the comments on the picture. I have reported multiple pictures and comments and have, disappointingly, seen no action taken by Instagram.

I love your app and I appreciate the community you have provided. Please continue to make this a safe place for all people, regardless of their differences.

Amy Knueppel

Sent from my iPhone


Evelyn James said...

YOU ROCK! Thank you for posting that. I haven't searched #downsyndrome. I don't have to search as I have a beautiful little 6 year old right here in my house. Thank you for bringing this to Instagram's attention. We would love for you to join our positive, life-affirming community loving our family members with T21. Visit <3

The Thomps said...

Thank you! I follow the IDSC on Facebook. I didn't know I could join! I'll head over to the site and take a look. :)

Alison Wormald said...

Beautiful photos. I like the month by month listing. The positive side of the social networks is that photos and stories can be shared to educate and inform. It's a drip drip thing to try and counteract the negativity though.

Mark Leach said...

Thank you for the heads up on the hashtag--a modern version of the discrimination against those with Down syndrome that society still tolerates. Rather than engage the posters, themselves, I wonder if IG is willing to have a complaint filed on improper uses of hashtags to take down offensive content?

The Thomps said...

Mark - the app does have a way to report a comment as harassment or bullying. I have personally tagged many comments using this system and IG does not remove the comment or photo. Evidently, making fun of Down syndrome is not seen as harassment or bullying in their eyes.

The Thomps said...

I see you're an attorney! Do you mean complaint in the legal sense?

Jamie Renee Freeman said...

Hi there!! My little man is now 4 and a half months old. The #down syndrome has led me to so many people whose stories I have found comfort in and really helped me with Benjamin's diagnosis. However, I was the person in your scenario. While I was still pregnant and coming to terms with the possibility of Ben having T21, I began browsing the DS hashtag. I was overwhelmed by all the beautiful babies and beginning to feel hopeful when I came across a joke picture. It crushed me. I was in tears for hours as it instantly brought to life all the horrible fears I had about the bullying my unborn child would face. It took me a long time before going back to that feed. Today, I am much stronger and feel no more fear over Benny having DS, but I don't ever want anyone else to have to experience that feeling I had that day. Thank you for writing the Instagram folks! Xoxo