On 19 May 2020, an international coalition of arts and free expression organizations, including the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), IBEX Collection, Article19, PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), International Arts Rights Advisors, and Freemuse, launched Don’t Delete Art, a virtual gallery showcasing work which is banned or restricted on social media. The gallery, whose curators include frequently-censored artists Spencer Tunick and Savannah Spirit, was created in response to artists’ increased reliance on social media platforms as the coronavirus pandemic forced global closings of physical art spaces. With social media as the world’s primary art space, artists are more vulnerable than ever to the chaotic manner in which platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube, remove and restrict art vaguely defined as “objectionable.” The gallery is part of a campaign calling on social media companies to adopt a clear set of notice and appeals principles guiding the regulation of art online and allowing art to circulate freely in the online environment.
“The censorship of artists and artworks by social media companies is unfortunately growing. This is serious violations of artistic freedom and violations of international regulations and binding treaties to ensure freedom of expression”, says Sverre Pedersen, Freemuse Campaign and Advocacy Manager. “We appeal to the companies that they must comply with the international agreements and obligations these entails and ensure that the censorship of artists and artworks ceases immediately.”
The Don’t Delete Art gallery is curated by a collective including artists Spencer Tunick and Savannah Spirit, as well as representatives from the arts organizations involved. The gallery will host webinars and digital events, as well as rotating exhibitions.
In addition to providing a platform for censored art, the coalition is calling on social media companies to adopt a set of principles governing how they handle artist content on their platforms. The principles include increased notifications for content that is removed or “downranked,” better guidance and more opportunities to appeal all content moderation decisions from post removal to downranking to account deletion, and a commitment to encourage, rather than discourage, artistic freedom.