Instagram is taking a hard line on conversion therapy, announcing that it will block all posts promoting the abhorrent practise.
Attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organisation for decades and are linked to higher risks of depression, suicide, and drug addiction.
Instagram’s public policy director Tara Hopkins acknowledged the harm it causes as she explained how the company is changing the way it handles conversion therapy content.
“We don’t allow attacks against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity and are updating our policies to ban the promotion of conversion therapy services,” she said, speaking exclusively to the BBC.
She continued: “We are always reviewing our policies and will continue to consult with experts and people with personal experiences to inform our approach.”
Earlier this year Instagram banned the promotion of conversion therapy in ads. From Friday (July 10), any content linked to the practise will be banned across all posts on the platform.
The company stresses that it will take time to update all of its policies to reflect this blanket ban, so while some content that users flag may not immediately be removed, over time that should change.
The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims categorises conversion therapy as a form of torture, and the UN has long called for a global ban.
But conversion therapy is still legal in the UK, despite the government promising to eradicate it two years ago in its July 2018 LGBT+ Action Plan.
Campaigners are now urging the government to make good on its promise, with Elton John, Stephen Fry, Munroe Bergdorf and Dua Lipa joining over influential public figures in calling for a ban.
“Theresa May, as prime minister, vowed to eradicate this “abhorrent” practice in 2018 and since then the British public has been waiting expectantly, not least the LGBTQ+ community,” they write.
“The government has said recently that conversion therapy is complex, which it undoubtedly is, and although we acknowledge this issue is nuanced we strongly believe that effective legislation, supported by a programme of work to help tackle these practices in all their forms, is possible.
“Any form of counselling or persuading someone to change their sexual orientation or behaviour so as to conform with a heteronormative lifestyle, or their gender identity should be illegal, no matter the reason, religious or otherwise — whatever the person’s age.”