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Twitch star Kaitlyn “Amouranth” Siragusa said she’s received blackmail messages from a content moderator who is demanding money in exchange for allowing her content to remain on Instagram.
The messages came after Instagram took down about a dozen of her posts and stories, according to the HuffPost. A person using the pseudonym “Tampa,” sent her the messages, claiming to work for Cognizant, a firm that moderates content for Facebook and Instagram.
“I’m sure you’ve noticed recently than [sic] many of your posts and stories have been removed,” read the email, per HuffPost. “Perhaps we can reach an agreement privately.”
The cost? About $2,600 per month in bitcoin. At first, Amouranth ignored the message, thinking it was a scammer who had reported her posts and then pretended to be a content moderator. But then Instagram took down more of her content, and Tampa sent yet another letter.
In the second letter, Tampa included the exact posting times for the most recent posts removed from her account, according to HuffPost. This is something that’s not easily accessible. The only reason Amouranth knew the timestamps were correct is because Instagram sent her a letter with this information when it removed the pictures.
All of the content taken down had been flagged for “nudity or pornography,” according to HuffPost. But Amouranth felt that the pictures complied with Instagram’s community code. One of the pictures removed was of her fully clothed in a Hooter’s T-shirt. Another was of Amouranth in a bikini by the pool. In other words, normal content on Instagram.
Confused and worried about the letters, Amouranth decided to reach out to Facebook, which owns Instagram, about the issue. In response, Facebook continued to defend the removal of the posts, saying they were “sexually suggestive.” Though the content removed doesn’t necessarily meet Instagram’s criteria for removal, according to HuffPost.
“Instagram literally enforced a different set of rules than what they publicly provide on their website,” Amouranth told the Daily Dot. “It’s potentially dangerous that there’s no transparency, no oversight or delineation about its community guidelines and rules, or its policies for moderating content.”
The company added that its artificial intelligence technology had flagged the pictures–not a person.
“We take accusations like this very seriously. We investigated this matter and did not find any evidence of abuse,” Stephanie Otway, a Facebook spokesperson, told the Daily Dot.
But HuffPost did some digging, and things don’t add up. The pseudonym “Tampa” refers to a new Cognizant office located in Tampa, Florida. The blackmailer was using the pseudonym before any information about the office had become public, according to HuffPost. In addition, Tampa had insider knowledge of Instagram policies and included them in the messages.
Amouranth said that more of her posts have been removed in the past few days. She has over 1.6 million followers and relies on the platform for her job. “Each picture is a means of engaging with my audience. It’s essentially where I’ve told people they can get regular updates from me,” she said.
Amouranth said she hopes to shine a light on the “ill-defined community guidelines.”
“I am hoping more people step forward with their stories,” Amouranth said. “I imagine I am not the only one.”
This post has been updated to include comments from Amouranth.
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Sierra Juarez is a freelance journalist and fact-checker based in Mexico. She most enjoys writing about human rights and politics and working in audience engagement. Her work has appeared in the Texas Tribune, the Austin American–Statesman, and the San Antonio Current.