Fighting censorship with creativity: why Meta’s crack down on political content matters, and what you can do about it.

Authors: Zoë Dawson
  • Reading time: 5 min.
  • Posted on: March 28, 2024

The intersection of social media and social issues is a labyrinth. On the one hand, social media has democratised access to information and empowered marginalised voices. On the other, it’s facilitated the spread of misinformation and exacerbated political polarisation. It’s an ever-changing landscape, and last week, Meta introduced a limit on political content. 

Maybe it’s because the voter registration campaign I’m working on just got a whole lot harder, or because a couple of weeks ago, the ad I wrote for Amnesty International was deemed “too political” to show on TV. Or maybe it’s simply my concern for the state of the world. Whatever it is, their decision really pissed me off. 

So let’s dissect what the crack down on ‘political content’ means for the people trying to communicate social issues. 


The head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, said on Threads that the policy change is about “respecting each person’s appetite for [political content].” Fine. But here’s the thing: engaging with the world around you isn’t about your appetite for politics. It’s about access to knowledge and, by extension, power to enact change.

Platforms like Instagram have become crucial spaces for dialogue and activism, especially among younger demographics. The events of the Arab Spring, the Black Lives Matter movement, and #MeToo highlight the transformative potential of social media in driving progressive political change and mobilising mass movements. For young and marginalised people, social media does exactly what it says on the tin: it’s a platform for unheard voices. 

Celebrities and influencers have been quick to share the update | Photo: Misan Harriman Instagram

Meta’s decision feels acutely like a manipulative exertion of control. As governments clampdown on our right to peacefully protest, this online equivalent achieves the same aim with a single click. 


The spread of misinformation online and the ‘algorithmic radicalisation’ that goes with it is a mind-blowingly terrifying side of social media that needs addressing. But if this policy change is designed to tackle the threat of our social media echo chambers, it’s fallen at the first hurdle. The update allows for political content from accounts you already follow, while restricting any of the equivalent content from anyone else, with any other opinions. Surely this will only exacerbate existing political polarisation and populism.

And what about the unengaged? Those with ‘less of an appetite’ for politics? 

For what is supposed to be a positive shift, it feels pretty hush hush. Instagram has rolled out the update without notifying users, so most people won’t be aware that their political content is being limited. And there’s a solid chance that they won’t really care (which is, of course, Instagram’s point). In the UK, huge numbers of young people – who spend the most time on these apps – are not registered to vote, for a whole host of reasons including apathy and lack of understanding. Limiting our ability to engage and educate young people through digital platforms will only contribute to an increasingly uninformed electorate. 


While Meta hasn’t addressed how the new setting will impact advertising on Instagram, political content has been limited there for a while. Alongside verification and disclaimers needed to run ads Meta deems political, digital targeting can no longer be based on political or issue engagement like newspaper affiliation. Our Performance Marketing Consultant Paul Court told me  “the creative has to become the targeting tool.” AKA you need to be more in tune with what your audience will engage with than ever before if you want the algorithm to favour your content. 

Creating work that connects should already be rule 101 of any communications. In social impact though, it can be hard to convince teams to lead with anything other than their carefully crafted message. Thinking differently is key.

Our recent “Before Our Eyes” campaign for Amnesty International UK did exactly that. We were tasked with engaging ‘passive’ audiences who weren’t paying attention to human rights in the UK. So we came up with an idea based on something we knew they did tune into: the gritty British drama. Creating a trailer for a TV show starring Olivia Colman and Adrian Lester, that didn’t really exist, we got them to face the reality of human rights in this country within the cultural framing of something they were comfortable with. At the end of the trailer, Colman reveals that “this isn’t drama, this is real life.”

Content creators on Instagram and TikTok have been using a similar tactic to talk about Palestine. Videos that start with familiar ‘get ready with me’ formats or funny stories flip last minute to Palestine support. It’s smart, audience driven and super sneaky… and I’m hopeful these methods may help us get past Instagram’s political content criteria.

Photo: My Life My Say Instagram


Whatever happens next, communication professionals in this space need to embrace creativity if they want to reach new supporters. And that goes beyond the ‘gram. 

In the likely event that social media continues to crack down on political and social issues, we need to think on our feet about how and where else we can connect with our audiences. Brand and celebrity partnerships, outdoor advertising, on the ground activations, and most crucially: culture. 

Until they stop us making art, films, documentaries and TV drama trailers, they can’t stop us talking about the things that matter. So let’s start hacking these spaces to amplify our message.   

** Check out my next piece on culture hacking, coming soon…