Regulations, Restrictions and Rupi Kaur

Media and technology regulation is apparent throughout our everyday lives, from ticking a terms and conditions agreement box, to going to see an MA+ movie at the cinema. Apart from legal regulation, self-regulation is also important… Do you have rules at your family dinner table concerning television use? Or have you and your friends ever put you phones in the middle of the table during a catch up?


Regulations can be important to workplace safety and the protection of minors, as well as a general limitation of indecent, obscene, violent content in the public sphere. Last week I was visiting the radiologist, and I noticed a “no mobile phones” sign. I presumed that this was necessary because of the sensitive equipment in the area, and quickly turned mine off. After being momentarily confused about what to do next, I was saved by the presence of a public television in the waiting room and proceeded to watch Ellen Degeneres for half an hour. However, one patient behind me was still using his phone, which made me (as a very strict rule follower) very anxious. Apart from following the rules of regulation in this space, shouldn’t this individual be courteous and self-regulatory in his technology use?

The development of film censorship is a particularly interesting area of media regulation, with the introduction of the classification guide a very effective solution for the limitations of the production code. The production code, introduced in 1930, controlled content including sex, vulgarity, crime, obscenity, profanity, religion, patriotism and violence. Eventually a classification system was chosen in favour of a production code, which embraces the artistic freedom and diversity of film.

In Australia, an official government censorship system determines ratings. We see classifications before most public programs on TV and in the cinema, and surely everyone recognises this iconic 2000’s video about ratings.

However, regulation can also have restricting, and negative effects. Instagram, like other online social networking and photo sharing services, has specific terms of use and has the power to view, edit and delete content and accounts. Earlier this year, artist Rupi Kaur uploaded images onto Instagram from her photo series “Period.”.

rupi photos

The company’s censors removed the content not once, but twice, which makes you question whether it was “accidental”, as the company claimed. The application’s community guidelines prohibit nudity or mature content, as well as spam, violence and racism, but Kaur’s images don’t fall into any of these categories. 

This was Kaur’s response:

“Thank you Instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique…. I will not apologise for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak, when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women . . . are objectified, pornified, and treated [as] less than human.”

Consequently, while regulations can protect vulnerable and naïve audiences and business environments, I believe that they can also be unfair and challenge freedom of expression.


Brooke, M. 2014, The Hays Code, viewed September 26 2015,

Brooks, S. 2014, ‘How to Get Your Friends to Stop Using Phones During Dinner’, Sanaa Brooks, blog post, August 6 2015, 

Cascone, S. 2015, ‘Artist Rupi Kaur Criticised Instagram for Censoring Photo Showing Period Blood’ ArtNet News, blog post, March 31, viewed September 26 2015,

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