The Deeply Disturbing Trend Affecting Mothers On Social Media

By Joseph Farago | 1 day ago

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Social media is great for interacting with others, sharing photos, and keeping up with current events. But using the internet can also have a darker side. As more people transitioned to using the internet exclusively during the pandemic, specific virtual scams became more prevalent. This creepy scam tried to pay nursing mothers for pictures of breastfeeding their children.

Some women on Instagram received direct messages from the account @curetheincels regarding nursing pictures. The messages included offers for $25 to $50 per photo, which was a part of the user’s campaign to normalize breastfeeding on the internet. After the nursing mothers sent over their photos, they would be compensated through Venmo or CashApp. But this allegedly is not a campaign to spread awareness about nursing mothers and breastfeeding surveillance.

Another account messaging nursing mothers has also received scrutiny for its movement against sexualization. The Instagram account @breast_feeding_tips was DMing nursing mothers about sending breastfeeding pictures to the account alongside a blurb about the advice they had for other mothers. After people looked into the account, it didn’t seem like the maternal community that the account purported it has was real. Instead, most people in the comment section of the nursing photos appeared to be men or people interested in condemning the images. The comment section didn’t show anyone discussing motherhood or the monitoring of women’s nursing, which is what the Instagram account said was their focus.

There are plenty of platforms where mothers, parents, and other caregivers have collected to share advice and stories about parenting. But when it comes to nursing mothers, there’s often backlash or an inappropriate reaction to the content. On TikTok, mothers who discuss breastfeeding or post images of breastfeeding receive a swarm of attention and comments that sexualize the practice. Even worse, particular moms have been criticized and harassed for their open and honest discussions regarding nursing. As legislation attempts to be pushed in this country to regulate a women’s body, the trend of critiquing mothers and exploiting their parenting on social media continues to spiral out of control.

TikTok has had some of the worst cases of overt sexualization of mothers. Since content can circulate so quickly, nursing mothers and their breastfeeding content has ended up in the wrong sector of TikTok. Many of these creators end up receiving hundreds of abusive comments from people around the world. The video app finally responded to creators’ frustration about harassment on the platform. A TikTok spokesperson stated that they dedicate time to “remove abusive or harassing behavior” while also mentioning the block settings that are available on the app. Instagram has yet to comment about the abuse mothers have gotten on that platform.

Unfortunately, those nursing mothers who’ve been tricked into sharing private photos don’t have much legal protection. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which is a federal statute, was enacted to support social media companies and platforms from repercussions. Content shared and posted by an account is held liable, not the outlets who have a hand in circulating the content. This also doesn’t protect women who’ve had their breastfeeding photos misused or reposted by harmful accounts.