Instagram is the perfect place for rising models and influencers to find jobs and market themselves. It is also the perfect place for predators to find victims, as the recent case of Marcus Hyde reveals.
Hyde is a famous photographer that is verified on Instagram with thousands of followers. Despite this, recent accusations from Instagram models claim he used his position of power to ask them for nude photographs in exchange for professional photo shoots.
In past years, Instagram has been focused on maintaining privacy and controlling data use, yet not much attention has been focused on the way Instagram allows abusers full access to victims. This is bad news for models who rely on Instagram to brand themselves. The two entrepreneurs behind modeling agency Diet Prada, Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler, know that abuse on social media sites is growing. “Social media has changed the landscape of the traditional modeling industry, enabling anyone to create public personas and navigate independent modeling work or carve unconventional image-based career paths,” they wrote in a joint statement.
When Sunnaya Nash posted screenshots of conversations she’d had with Hyde after he called for new models to shoot and instead asked that she send nude photos first, Instagram initially took her post down for violating their policy on publishing private conversations. In the screenshots, when Nash refuses, Hyde then says she will have to pay $2,000 for a shoot that was previously free.
It turns out Nash is not the only victim. After her post, around 50 other women came forward with their own encounters involving Hyde. Nash said their stories were “similar to mine or worse.” When Nash complained about the removal of her post, Instagram apologized and instead focused on taking down Hyde’s account for sexual solicitation.
Stephanie Otway, a spokesperson for Instagram, said “We want to keep our community safe, and we are focused on putting every measure in place that we can to protect people on Instagram. Expression is at the heart of what we do, and people will only express themselves if they feel safe and supported.”
Even as people become more aware of famous predators like Hyde, many other dangerous people are using the business model of Instagram to hide behind major companies to abuse women. Major modeling agencies are contacted by parents or models at least once a month about predators posing as agents for the companies, trying to get the girls alone.
Sarah Ziff, the founder of Model Alliance, an advocacy group for models, believes it’s incredibly important for Instagram to review their policies, especially since around 35 percent of complaints received by agencies these days are about potential scams. “The vast majority of those inquiries were initiated through Instagram. And it is very difficult for an aspiring model to navigate what are legitimate jobs and what are not, yet it is entirely on exactly those largely powerless individuals to navigate,” she said.
Overall, more needs to be done to protect women on these sites. As Ziff said, “I think Instagram has a huge responsibility. Currently it’s a platform that creates an environment that is ripe for abuse.”