Meta’s independent Oversight Board overturned the social media giant’s decision to remove bare chest photos of transgender and non-binary people on Instagram, and urged the company to redefine its rules around nudity in a way that is clear and does not discriminate based on gender. 

The board’s Tuesday decision overturned Instagram’s original decision in 2021 and 2022 to remove two photos posted by the same U.S.-based couple who identify as transgender and non-binary. The photos showed images of the couple bare-chested with nipples covered and had captions discussing transgender health care. 

The posts were initially removed by Meta, the parent company of Instagram, for violating the platform’s Sexual Solicitation and Community Standard. But Meta restored the posts after finding they were removed in error following the Oversight Board accepting the case to repeal the decision. 

“Here, the Board finds that Meta’s policies on adult nudity result in greater barriers to expression for women, trans, and gender non-binary people on its platforms,” the board wrote in its decision.

The Oversight Board is a task force funded by Meta but is made up of outside experts and civic leaders. It is designed to run independently from the company. 

The board said the joint cases “highlight fundamental issues with Meta’s policies.” The company’s internal guidance to moderators on when to remove content under the Sexual Solicitation policy is “far broader than the stated rationale for the policy, or the publicly available guidance,” leading to confusion for users and moderators and content being “wrongly removed,” the board found. 

The decision also recommends Meta define “clear, objective, rights-respecting criteria” for its Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity Community Standard. 

The board’s decisions on specific posts or accounts are binding, but policy recommendations are not, meaning Meta can choose whether to adopt changes suggested by the board. 

A Meta spokesperson said they “welcome the board’s decision in this case.”

“We had reinstated this content prior to the decision, recognizing that it should not have been taken down. We are constantly evaluating our policies to help make our platforms safer for everyone. We know more can be done to support the LGBTQ+ community, and that means working with experts and LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations on a range of issues and product improvements,” the spokesperson added.