Instagram’s Swipe Up Feature Spreads Crucial Resources. Why Doesn’t Everyone Have It?

by Kaitlyn Wylde
People are campaigning for Instagram to release the swipe up feature to all users.

In the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and others, Instagram has become the nucleus of vital information pertaining to protests, calls-to-action, and general support of the Black Lives Matter movement. But it's not just public figures, brands, and celebrities that are offering crucial resources — it's everyday users educating their peers, too. As a result, some people are calling for Instagram to make the swipe-up feature to available to everyone.

In order to have the swipe-up feature on Instagram, you need to either be a verified account, or have at least 10,000 followers. The feature allows qualified users to share links in their Stories, which can be directly accessed with a swipe. There is no need to send followers to the link in your bio or have them manually type out the URL. With the feature, they can easily navigate back to Instagram where they left off when they are done viewing the external content.

Some users are frustrated with their inability to spread updates on protests and information on anti-racism directly. "The swipe-up function is one of the many ways Instagram plays God about whose voices are deemed more worthy of being heard than others," Chelsea Leibow, an independent publicist, tells Bustle.

A representative for Instagram confirmed that sharing links via swipe up in Stories is not a universal feature. The app limits the ability to share swipe-up links in order to reduce the risk of spreading spam or abuse, the spokesperson added.

Michael Brown, a creative producer, has been tweeting at Instagram for days, asking them to unlock swipe ups. "Like a lot of non-Black people, I’ve become more activated than ever sharing information about Black Lives Matter on Instagram," Brown tells Bustle, going on to say that he sees value in his ability to reach people from his hometown "who may have never considered their privilege before." The problem is, Brown says, that sending people out to bio links isn't getting them there. "I know how many people interact with my story, and I can see that 'link in bio' is incredibly ineffective."

While Brown is glad that the platform has "become a major vehicle for the Black Lives Matter movement in terms of protest organization, the spread of information, resources, and donations," he's frustrated at the lack of response from Instagram. The only thing that could make Instagram's service more useful during this time, according to Brown, is the general use of the feature. "Having the swipe-up feature would allow Black creators and Black-owned businesses to better and more effectively advertise their goods and services," Brown says.

It's not just users who don't have the feature that are campaigning for it. Actor Bailee Madison lent her voice to the choir of requests on Twitter this week. "Simple measures taken to ensure that all voices are heard is crucial right now and moving forward," Madison tells Bustle. "There are so many positive non-verified advocates who need their voices to be amplified the same way that my voice and fellow verified friend’s voices are able to be," she says. Madison asks Instagram to "consider what more they can do to put valuable tools like the swipe-up option in the hands of at least some clearly powerful but still un-verified voices or make it available to all."

"We cannot ignore how effective social media has been recently in helping mobilize the people," Leibow says, but she feels that it's not enough. "It's time for Instagram to do everything in its power to make that mobilization more effective — democratizing the swipe up function would be a good start," she says.

While a lot of users are hoping to equalize access the apps' features, some users worry general use could contribute to the spread of misinformation. "Unless Instagram has some sort of fake news verification system in place for the links being shared, it could become another platform that is rapidly spreading misinformation," one user, who asked to remain anonymous for professional reasons, tells Bustle. While verified accounts are not entirely innocent when it comes to sharing misinformation, "they are already used to having a responsibility to a big audience, and they can at least be held publicly accountable for any mistakes," the user adds.

Though another anonymous user "finds it very annoying to not have the feature," they don't necessarily believe that they are "enough of an authority to vet the articles" being shared right now. "I think people who have the feature are more prepared for that responsibility," they say.

Users without swipe-ups will have to rely on bio links and tagging accounts who do have access to the feature. Users can also share links with individuals or groups of people via direct message, or share resources on platforms like Twitter or Facebook. But don't let technicalities keep you from sharing, advocating, and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.