Pedro Almodóvar Warns Against Algorithms in Instagram Row

Associated Press

Thursday August 12, 2021

Penelope Cruz, left, and director Pedro Almodovar pose for photographers at the photo call for the film "Pain and Glory" at the 72nd international film festival, Cannes.
Penelope Cruz, left, and director Pedro Almodovar pose for photographers at the photo call for the film "Pain and Glory" at the 72nd international film festival, Cannes.  (Source:Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP,)

Declaring "victory" over Instagram after a controversial poster for his upcoming film was censored and then reinstated, Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar said Thursday that society must be alert to the power of algorithms in deciding what humans are permitted to see.

"We have to be vigilant before the machines decide what we can and cannot do," Almodóvar said after a poster for "Parallel Mothers" displaying a lactating nipple was removed by Instagram's algorithm due to its ban on nudity. The social network has since apologized and backtracked after recognizing the "artistic context" of the image.

Almodóvar, in an emailed statement, thanked thousands of Instagram users who kept re-uploading the image after it was removed.

"You have succeeded in getting the minds behind the algorithm that decides what is or is not obscene and offensive to back off and allow the poster to circulate freely," he said. "No matter how much information the algorithm possesses it will never have a heart or common sense."

Facebook and Instagram's longstanding rules — and previous bans — have spurred the use of a #FreetheNipple movement on Instagram, which is used by many artists and celebrities to portray nipples despite the rules. The ban does not extend to male nipples.

"Parallel Mothers" starring Penélope Cruz will open the Venice Film Festival on Sept. 1.

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