People are pressuring Instagram to make its coveted 'swipe up' feature available to everyone to support Black Lives Matter

insider@insider.com (Hanna Lustig)
Instagram's "swipe up" functionality allows users to directly link products, shops, and websites from their Instagram story.

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  • Social media is playing a crucial role in organizing and mobilizing support for the Black Lives Matter movement. 
  • Instagram limits some of its most useful and highly coveted features to public figures, celebrities, brands, and people with large followings. 
  • The ability to share "swipe up," clickable links in Instagram stories is available only to verified users and personal or business accounts with more than 10,000 followers. 
  • Now, people are calling for the platform to make its "swipe up" feature available to everyone in an effort to support activism and information-sharing.
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Like the blue verified badge, the "swipe up" links feature is a status symbol on Instagram. The ability to embed clickable links in Instagram stories is a privilege users have to earn, either by accumulating more than 10,000 followers or managing to get verified on the platform. But in light of the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, people are now asking the company to lift those requirements and expand access to the covetable feature in an effort to support activists. 

Nadirah Simmons, social media manager for A Late Show with Steven Colbert, was one of first to float the idea on Twitter. 

"you know what would be helpful right now?" Simmons wrote on Monday."if @instagram made it possible to swipe up with less than 10k followers so people can go directly resources, videos, audio, books, etc. on what's happening."

 

At the moment, users without "swipe up" must resort to various workarounds for Instagram link-sharing. The most popular tactic is putting the link in the "website" section of your bio and directing followers there. Another strategy is using a free bio link tool like Linktree. 

In April, Instagram introduced a new way to raise money for "approved organizations" by hosting a livestream fundraiser on the platform. A fundraiser can also be started by adding a donation sticker to your Instagram story.

But none of these alternatives could be called a perfect solution. Clickable links cannot be left in the caption or the comments, either, meaning users who want to follow those links will have to do so by copying and pasting the URL into a browser. 

The vast majority of people do not (and likely never will) qualify for "swipe up" privileges according to Instagram's current benchmarks. According to Mention's 2019 Instagram report, only 19.9% of all Instagram users have more than 10,000 followers.

And per an Instagram support article on requesting a verified badge, "you must be a public figure, celebrity or brand and meet certain account and eligibility requirements."

"We look at a number of factors when evaluating Instagram accounts to determine if they're in the public interest and meet our verification criteria," the article continued. Additionally, accounts seeking verification need to be "authentic," "unique," "complete," and "notable." Submitting a request to be verified, of course, does not guarantee that your account will be verified.

Instagram claims that it caps link sharing to reduce the potential for spam. 

 

Since the death of George Floyd in police custody, social media has become a crucial means of gathering donations to relevant organizations, spreading awareness, and organizing vigils, rallies, and protests. For activists, especially black activists, working to mobilize advocates across the world, the ability to link resources in stories and captions would significantly reduce friction, from a user experience perspective. 

 

The public outcry for "swipe up" functionality comes on the heels of yesterday's Instagram #BlackOutTuesday hashtag debacle.

 

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