- Courtney Adamo posted an innocent picture of her daughter Marlow on Instagram, never expecting a reaction
- However, Instagram deleted it as inappropriate for violating nudity rules
- When Courtney re-posted the photo her account was deleted, because the photo was seen as bait for paedophiles
- With obscene and pornographic images easily available on Instagram, many are calling for the rules to be changed
- Courtney says the photo has now been tainted forever
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Little Marlow Adamo is blissfully unaware that she is the owner of — in her mother’s words — ‘the most infamous belly button on the worldwide web’.
Toddling around in a little pair of yellow wellies, the 19-month-old thinks nothing of pulling up her white cotton top to show it off in that joyful, unselfconscious way that young children do.
‘Belly,’ she says, pointing to it very proudly.
It was this charming picture of innocence that Marlow’s mother Courtney, 33, captured on her camera phone last month in the garden of their North London home — and immediately posted on the popular social media site Instagram.
Innocent intentions: When posting the photo of her daughter to the social media site, Courtney had no idea of the storm of controversy that she was about to unleash
In doing so, Courtney had absolutely no idea of the storm of controversy that she was about to unleash.
First, Instagram deleted the ‘inappropriate’ photo for violating its rules on nudity. Then, when Courtney re-posted the picture — thinking they must have made a mistake — her account was de-activated.
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Confused, the businesswoman and married mother-of-four wrote about her bewildering experience on her blog, sparking a furious debate on child safety, which then spread rapidly across the internet.
Today, she can hardly bear to look at that photo — since plastered over the world’s media — without her own stomach becoming knotted with anxiety.
Courtney feels the photo has been tainted. She has spent weeks feeling horribly exposed, with the misery of having her adored photo — Marlow’s first successful day of potty training and wearing her ‘big girl undies’ — scrutinised and judged all over the world.
To her the image was something lovely and precious, but to whoever reported it to Instagram — apparently in the name of child protection — it was seen as potential bait for paedophiles.‘What kind of world do we now live in,’ asks Courtney in our exclusive interview, ‘that a beautiful picture of an innocent little girl could be seen as anything other than that?
Mother-daughter bond: Courtney, 33, pictured with daughter Marlow, posted the controversial photo because it showed a lovely and precious moment
‘When I look at that photo now, I just can’t see it in the same way. It stirs up unsettling emotions. It’s really sad. I just feel they have ruined the innocence of it all. I find it really upsetting, quite disgusting, to think that someone is rifling through my photos online looking for something to complain about — and seeing something sexual that isn’t there.
‘You can see toddlers on the beach half-naked. Television commercials show babies in nappies. Are we going to ban those, too? To me, it’s just crazy.’
She has a point.
"You can see toddlers on the beach half-naked. Television commercials show babies in nappies. Are we going to ban those, too? To me, it’s just crazy"
The image Courtney captured is no different from millions of childhood photographs that have graced countless family albums ever since the camera was invented.
Until the arrival of the internet and photo-sharing phone applications, such photos stayed strictly private.
Some might feel a pang of sympathy with the fears of Instagram, or the person who reported the picture, especially when you don’t know who might be looking at your pictures.
The fear has been heightened by the recent spate of child sex scandals and the inexorable spread of internet porn. But does an image as clearly innocent as this really have to be kept under wraps?
Since the row erupted, Courtney has been contacted by several other mothers whose Instagram accounts have been inexplicably deleted after they posted equally innocent snaps of their babies in nothing but a nappy — or of themselves breastfeeding.
These mothers are challenging Instagram to review their ‘vague’ guidelines and implement them properly — targeting images that are far more worthy of deletion.
Fighting back: 'There is nothing wrong with posting innocent pictures of our children showing their belly buttons' says Courtney
‘There is nothing wrong with posting innocent pictures of our children showing their belly buttons,’ says Courtney, who writes a blog for her online baby boutique directory, Babyccino Kids.
‘Judging my photo as inappropriate is making it out to be something to be ashamed of, and it isn’t.
‘It takes about two seconds to find disgusting pornographic images on Instagram, images you’d never want your children or grandmother to see.
‘Don’t these violate Instagram’s guidelines? You’d think their time would be better spent removing those overtly, intentionally sexual images. I think it’s a double standard.
‘I’m sure they have good intentions, but to have a rule banning all topless images of female children of walking age or over is ridiculous.
‘To have this rule in the first place encourages the sexualisation of young girls.’
Instagram reinstated Courtney’s account — on which she’d posted more than 1,500 pictures of her four children — after a backlash by some of her 40,000 followers who posted the belly button photo on their accounts instead.
Proud mother: Courtney has posted more than 1,500 pictures of her four children on her Instagram account
A spokesman for the site said: ‘We try hard to find a good balance between allowing people to express themselves creatively, and having policies in place to protect young children. This is one reason our guidelines put limitations on nudity, but we recognise that we don’t always get it right.’
Quite so. At the click of a button I found a range of sickening and obscene images on Instagram.
The images range from mildly flirtatious cleavage shots to photographs of the human body taken from every conceivable angle.
One Instagram user publishes a ‘selfie’, or self-taken photograph, of his naked body from the chest down, focusing on his aroused genitalia. Perhaps it is time that someone reported him.
DID YOU KNOW?
Instagram announced it had 100 million users last year; only two-and-a-half years after the launch of the app
There are other pictures of women naked, legs wide apart, and a crudely named section inviting users to rate others’ private parts.
If these images were published in a magazine, they’d end up on the top shelf of a newsagents.
A spokesman for Instagram told the Mail that accounts found sharing nudity or mature content will be disabled and access to Instagram may be discontinued.
Since Courtney’s account was re-activated, she has removed the belly button photo of Marlow, along with several others just for good measure — even though they, too, are perfectly innocent.
Even so, the week after her account was reactivated she was reported to Instagram three more times — targeted, she suspects, by ‘mean’ people motivated by spite.
Arriving at the Adamos’ stylish, elegant home, it is easy to see why some people might be envious. Courtney and her media producer husband Michael, 44, were born in the U.S. and are good-looking, successful people.
Their four children, Easton, nine, Quin, seven, Ivy, five, and adorable Marlow are so incredibly photogenic they’d look at home in the pages of a Boden catalogue.
Picture perfect: Courtney with her husband Michael 44, and (L-R) daughter Ivy, five, son Easton, nine, daughter Marlow, 19 months, and son Quin, seven
Courtney, busy making a fruit tart that she will later show to her online followers, is one of those ‘inspirational’ have-it-all mums we’d all secretly like to be — but, sadly, never will be.
‘Since all this happened, I’ve received so much support from my followers.
‘But others have been quick to judge me and make inaccurate assumptions,’ says Courtney, whose mother Marnie, 56, and Dutch-born father William, 59, run a tulip farm near Seattle.
‘I’ve been accused of exploiting my children by posting pictures of them online when they are too young to consent, but my Instagram feed contains absolutely nothing that could embarrass them.
"I’ve been accused of exploiting my children by posting pictures of them online when they are too young to consent, but my Instagram feed contains absolutely nothing that could embarrass them or put them in danger"
‘I never posted anything that I believed put them in danger and it really doesn’t bother me that my photos are being viewed in a public way. I feel that I have lovingly documented my family in a wholesome manner.
‘So many of my friends say it would bother them, but we’re not an overly private family and are pretty relaxed about it.
‘My personal and public life overlap and sharing little glimpses of our personal lives has been really good for our business, but it is only the tiniest glimpse.
‘It’s not an ego boost, nor am I trying to win a popularity contest. Being at the centre of this media controversy was very uncomfortable for me because I don’t have a thick skin.
‘This is my child everyone is talking about and I feel very exposed.
‘My husband has had to keep reminding me that everyone chooses how to live their life their own way, with love and in the best interests of their children, and who is anyone to judge another?
‘Yes, there is a chance that these photos could end up in the hands of someone with bad intentions, but my husband and I have chosen not to live in fear.
‘When we go on holiday, I’m happy for the children to run around the beach with no clothes on or just swimming costume bottoms.
‘You can’t worry about every single person who might be having thoughts about your children.
Embracing the moment: 'Yes, there is a chance that these photos could end up in the hands of someone with bad intentions, but my husband and I have chosen not to live in fear'
‘It would ruin your life to be overly protective in that way. It would drive you totally mad and you’d never do anything because every situation is potentially dangerous. If my children are climbing a tree, I don’t feel the need to stand there and make sure they don’t fall.
‘I trust that they will be OK and, with the proper education and guidance, my children will make the right choices in life.
‘Letting my nine-year old son use a public toilet on his own is potentially dangerous, but I don’t fear that and I don’t stop him.
‘I just want my children to have the kind of childhood I had. I don’t want us or them to worry endlessly about all the millions of things that could go wrong, but probably never will.’
Given the benefit of hindsight, Courtney is not sure she would post the photograph of Marlow that’s caused such distress to the family and raised so many questions.
"It took me seconds to find truly disgusting porn on Instagram - yet they ban a beautiful picture of my daughter. It's just crazy"
‘I posted that picture for my family to see, never expecting for a second it to travel the world and be blown up on the pages on newspapers,’ says Courtney, who says Instagram enables their families in the U.S. to feel involved in their daily lives.
‘My mum had just flown home to the States after visiting us, and while she was here she’d said to me: ‘I think Marlow is ready for potty training.”
‘It was Marlow’s first day without nappies, and it had gone so well.
‘I knew my mum would be so proud, so I took a picture and within seconds put it on Instagram.
How we first reported the story
‘I also knew my younger sister Meaghan would love the picture, too, because she has always loved Marlow’s little belly. It is very cute with a perfect outie belly button.
‘It was taken to capture a moment, to show my mum that Marlow was wearing big girl pants. I didn’t even think it was nudity.
‘So I was very confused when my sister texted me the following day and said: ‘Where did the photo go?’ I was in such a state of shock. I thought there must be some mistake.
‘I thought that maybe some computer program had automatically deleted it. I couldn’t believe that a human being would have looked at that photo and deemed it to be inappropriate.’
Courtney says she has since learned there are around 50 members of Instagram staff who review photographs posted by the site’s estimated 50 million users, following a report.
‘When my account was deactivated, I lost three years of family photographs and notes,’ she says.
‘I spent hours on the internet trying to find a way to contact Instagram, but there was no email address, no phone number. Nothing. There was simply no way I could find to challenge their decision.
‘Perhaps whoever reported my photograph of Marlow to Instagram really believed that they were saving my children in some way and were doing it from the goodness of their heart, but I have a feeling it isn’t that way.
‘I’ve heard there are groups of people going round Instagram trying to get accounts deleted because they just don’t want other people to succeed or be happy. It’s a form of trolling.
"I’m not trying to give answers or defend my choices, but just look at the picture. It’s of an innocent little girl. It’s appalling that anyone might look at it and think anything else"
‘People can say and do the meanest things, hiding behind their computer, judging and imposing their opinions and perceptions on you, saying things that they’d never dream of saying to your face.
‘This is now the world we live in with the internet. I’m not trying to give answers or defend my choices, but just look at the picture. It’s of an innocent little girl.
‘It’s appalling that anyone might look at it and think anything else.’
Source : https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2695036/Society-rightly-disturbed-paedophilia-scandals-But-undermining-common-sense-Here-mother-demonised-putting-picture-internet-asks-How-COULD-think-photo-innocent.html3276