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article imageElbows or breasts, Facebook's photo censoring policy

By Greta McClain     Dec 1, 2012 in Internet
For the second time in less than a week, reports of Facebook removing pictures it deems "obscene" or "demeaning" have people criticizing the social media giant.
On Monday, the Daily Mail reported that Facebook removed a picture of a woman sitting in a bathtub with her elbows resting on the sides of the tub. Facebook stated the picture violated the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which says: "You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence."
According to Facebook, it will remove photos "if they contain nudity, drug use or other obscene content. If the photo attacks another individual or group, it will be removed as well."
The picture was posted by the web magazine Theories of the Deep Understanding of Things as a test of Facebook's policy of deleting obscene photos. Within 24 hours of the posting, Facebook deleted the photo because it believed the elbows were actually breasts according to Gawker.
Theories posted on it's Facebook page: "So, here's last night’s FB alertness test results: FB moderators can't tell an elbow from a dangerous, filthy, uncanny and violent female breast."
After much criticism by Facebook posters and coverage by Gawker, Daily Mail and the Huffington Post, Facebook sent an apology, saying:
"A member of our team accidently removed something you posted on Facebook. This was {a} mistake, and we sincerely apologize for this error. We've since restored the content, and you should now be able to see it."
In February of this year, Facebook began a campaign of removing photos of mothers breastfeeding their babies. According to Metro, a "nurse-in" was staged at the Facebook New York City office. Women and their children protested the Facebook policy, telling the social media giant "breastfeeding is normal, natural, beautiful and important," and to leave their breastfeeding photos alone.
On Thursday, Facebook removed a digitally altered photo of a woman cut in half, adding a caption which asked "Left or right?". The photo, which was posted by the men's magazine Zoo Weekly, does not show nudity, other "obscene content", violence or blood.
Photo removed by Facebook
Photo removed by Facebook
Peter Reginald/Pinterest
The picture, which was uploaded and visible on the Zoo Weekly Facebook page since October, was removed by Facebook because it was considered "demeaning" according to Gizmodo.
The picture received numerous sexist comments posted by Facebook users. However, many of the photos on the Zoo Weekly page receive comments that are sexist in nature, and many have argued that most, if not all, of the photos are demeaning to women.
Since there is nothing in Facebook's policy stating "demeaning" content will be removed, nor is there a definition of what Facebook considers to be "demeaning", questions about Facebook's censorship policy are growing. Gizmodo asks why all the photos on the Zoo Weekly page have not been removed. Others wonder why the page itself, and others on Facebook, have not been removed if Facebook is going to ban demeaning content. International Digital Times asks the question: "Is Facebook being to strict with these photo restrictions?". Another question could be, should Facebook have a policy of prohibiting pages that demean others, and if so, should they develop a policy and inform users prior to censoring photos and other content?
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