A woman who claims she was censored for being overweight has received an apology from Instagram.
Campaigner Leslie Barbara Butch, 38, said France is one of the worst countries for discrimination against fat people.
She spoke out after her social media account was deleted when she shared a cover of the French magazine Télérama on which she appears naked.
Instagram claimed the picture showed “too much skin” but she claims its algorithms are deliberately set so they would not do the same to someone thin.
She says she retrieved her account, which has 14,000 followers, only because a friend knew someone who works for Instagram. It is not the first time she has been censored over her naked pictures, she added.
She said: “I have never broken the rules of Instagram but it happened to me several times.
“I felt angry. It took me years to build a community and it was all my work deleted.
“Fat-phobia is anchored in France. Every day, whether on social media or in the street, I get violent comments.
“I’ve already had people taking snacks out of my cart at the supermarket to replace them with fruit. People think that you are fat by choice, because you eat all the time, you eat badly and you are lazy.” Ms Butch, who is also a model and DJ, often publishes pictures of her work, which includes fighting for the rights of women, LGBT+ people and the overweight, all of whom she says suffer considerable discrimination in France.
What Instagram algorithms did to her and thousands of fans who shared the cover and were also censored shows what society thinks, she said.
“Fat people are ignored, we want them to be invisible.
“The algorithms of Instagram are not in phase with reality but they are made by people who only think of the typical skinny body and don’t think there can be people who don’t meet the criteria and norms of society.”
Discrimination also happens in the professional and medical world, she said.
“A gynaecologist once told me I could never have a child because of my weight, when it’s totally wrong.
“You go to the doctor because you have the flu or an otitis and he tells you that you need to lose weight.”
Ms Butch thinks that there are lots of ideas about obesity that people tend to repeat blindly, such as about diabetes or cholesterol.
She said: “People like to tell fat people what they should eat and do, but being overweight can be linked to many factors. It can be hormonal, emotional or due to an illness. I know more people who are not fat and have high cholesterol.
“Such behaviour is pushing fat people to isolate themselves as they feel constantly judged.”
In France, eight million people are deemed obese, meaning their body mass index is over 30.
An Instagram spokesperson said: “The content was removed by mistake and we are sorry.
“We want Instagram to be an inclusive place where everyone feels comfortable to express themselves. The content was reported to us and mistakenly removed for violating our community guidelines. It has been reinstated. Since that, Leslie Barbara Butch has been invited to meet the Instagram team and the managing director of Facebook France in Paris to discuss and find solutions together.”
There are 650million people in the world in the obese category, according to World Health Organisation figures. It says that around three million people in the world die each year due to obesity. In 2016, 21.6% of the population in France were classed as obese (it was 17.6% in 2005). In the UK, the figure is 27.8% – 21.4% in 2005 – and 36.2% in the US, against 29% in 2005.