An LGBT influencer has claimed a ‘blatantly homophobic’ group are bullying lesbian couples off Instagram by falsely reporting their accounts for spam and indecent content.
Tash Thomas, 32 and her fiancé Marthe Koster, 29, who are based in London, run the Instagram blog @_breakingthedistance, which has 20,500 followers.
Their page has been deactivated four times after being reported by anonymous accounts, in what they believe is part of a sustained attack against lesbian couple influencers.
The accounts responsible do not contain names, photos, or other identifying factors but do gloat about targeting accounts that belong to what Tash describes as ‘feminine presenting cisgender lesbian couples’.
Tash told FEMAIL the group is ‘targeting them like a game’, with accounts taunting bloggers with hand waving emojis before reporting them.
Tash Thomas (right), 32 and her fiancé Marthe Koster (left), 29, who are based in London, run the Instagram blog @_breakingthedistance, and their account was deactivated four times in days for no clear reason
Instagram is investigating the examples of accounts shared by MailOnline.
‘Three or four weeks ago now, me and my fiancé’s Instagram got deactivated,’ Tash said. ‘The message that came up is because we violated guidelines.’
Over the next couple of days the influencers, who have over 20K followers, had their account inexplicably removed four times before being contacted by another Instagram user.
‘They sent a video via DM, a screen recording of someone else’s story’, said Tash, ‘They had screen recorded the steps they had taken to take down our page.’
Tash says ‘blatantly homophobic’ group are bullying lesbian couples off Instagram by falsely reporting their accounts. Pictured, a screenshot of an account gloating about their account being deactivated
After reaching out to other influencers to see if anything similar was happening, Tash and Marthe quickly had a group chat of 20 accounts, who had been unfairly deactivated themselves.
Quickly their group grew to 83 users, with Tash putting together a ‘block list’ of 2,300 accounts they believe are targeting LGBT pages in the UK and US.
What is Instagram’s reporting policy?
Community Guidelines make it clear that bullying or harassment will not be tolerated on Instagram.
The platform does not allow content that attacks people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, or their sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability.
Instagram work’s closely with the police when they believe there’s a risk of physical harm or a threat to people’s safety.
The platform will take action on accounts and content reported if it breaks policies.
One report is enough to take down content if it violates the policies. Instagram does not remove content just because it has been reported a certain number of times.
If something is reported multiple times and Instagram find that it doesn’t violate guidelines, after a certain point, future reports will be automatically ignored.
‘You would see on their account highlights they had a pride flag and with a cross with it, and it would be screen shotted saying “We have deactivated these accounts”‘.
The accounts have non descript names and minimal photos, but despite having nearly no information about themselves, some have up to 300,000 followers.
Some of the accounts have bragged in their story highlights called ‘Ops’ or ‘Out’ with countless examples of falsely reporting other accounts, often claiming their victim’s content contains suicide and self injury.
Many of the accounts have quotes written in Arabic, images of anime cartoons, and share videos with sinister images, including pictures of men posing in balaclavas with assault rifles.
‘We can nearly predict who is going to go next based on how they’re targeting’, said Tash.
”They haven’t hit the massive ones [influencers], but basically everyone in my circle has been deactivated multiple times.
‘It’s almost like a game to them, one of my friends had a wave emoji sent to their phone and then five minutes later they were deactivated.’
Tash believes the group are targeting cisgender lesbian couples, who express their gender in a more feminine way, as well as same-sex families.
‘There’s a real range of LGBT influencers. But it’s only female couples that this is happening too’, says Tash.
‘Mainly feminine presenting, cisgender female couples this is happening too. A lot of now it seems to be targeting families.’
‘It’s definitely 100 per cent female, that is the only accounts to go down, not even single lesbians, it’s all couples.
Tash and other influencers have tried to contact the platform to complain, and after a bout of similar activity in July were able to contact a German-based employee, but have had no success so far. They have also tried themselves to report the strange accounts on the app.
‘When we go and report these blatantly homophobic accounts, they send you an update and they send you back an update which says there is not enough evidence, but it seems that they can literally get us deactivated in one report.’
Kels who runs the queenofqueermentalhealth Instagram account also had her page reported and posted on one of the group’s stories
Other members of the influencer community have been targets of the group, including Kels of queenofqueermentalhealth (left) and Courtney and Sabrina of mamas_triplet_love (right)
The group of ‘hackers’ have shared stories of HTML coding which appears to include all the reasons an individual can report an account
Another method of the group is to steal images from these accounts, use the same user name and bio information, before reporting the original account as a fake one.
‘We’ve reported the copy cat accounts’, said Tash, ‘But there isn’t enough proof, apparently activation date isn’t enough.’
A Facebook company spokesperson told FEMAIL: ‘We do not allow threats, attacks or hate speech directed at the LGBTQI+ community and we remove this content when we find it.
‘Our expert teams review reports of hate speech 24/7 in more than 50 languages, including Arabic.
‘We know we have more work to do here and we’ll continue to work closely with members of the LGBTQI+ community to address this behaviour.’