Is it Time to Audit the Auditors? Why Facebook Blocked Our Most Popular Post To Date (NSFW)

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Last week, we published our most viral post to date: Nude Bodies Transform From Flattering To Unflattering With Slight Shift In Pose (NSFW). After gaining momentum on Facebook and accruing a considerable amount of traffic, we were notified that the post violated Facebook’s Community Standards. The (incredibly vague) policy states,

“Facebook has a strict policy against the sharing of pornographic content and any explicitly sexual content where a minor is involved. We also impose limitations on the display of nudity. We aspire to respect people’s right to share content of personal importance, whether those are photos of a sculpture like Michelangelo’s David or family photos of a child breastfeeding.”

Should this apply to nudes that are part of an artistic endeavor, or “content of personal importance,” such as Gracie Hagen’s photographs (featured above)? Why has Facebook never flagged any other post of ours, others of which also feature a comparable amount of nudity (featured below)?

It’s safe to assume that our post was targeted because it received viral Facebook exposure, inviting the scrutiny of many Facebook users who may or may not recognize nudity’s artistic value – any Facebook user can flag a post as inappropriate and subject that post to the review of Facebook’s moderators. Who are Facebook’s moderators? They are (unsurprisingly) employees who are outsourced to 3rd world countries, where they typically receive around $1/hour for the work of wading through what is sure to be the dirtiest and unsettling parts of the internet. Once a moderator receives a flagged post, they can confirm it’s a violation, dismiss it, or escalate it. (Escalation is reserved for posts that could be illegal or are remarkably insidious). Moderators are to follow a detailed guidebook, first uncovered by Gawker, which specifically states, “Art nudity ok” with regard to nudity on Facebook. (Though experience suggests Facebook may only consider illustrations and sculptures of nudes okay.)

 

Essentially, all it takes to ban something on Facebook is for two people to agree that the content is inappropriate. How is this fair to users, especially artists, who depend on social media in order to spread word of the work they are doing? When much of art relies on its ability to provoke, how can artists depend on this universal and popular platform of sharing if the judgement of their work as art depends on the whims of a few random people? Why does Facebook not have a better system of checks and balances when it comes to moderating user content?

At Beautiful/Decay, our mission is to share work that challenges and gratifies us, work that inspires questions about our culture and our place within it. A large part of how we share this work is through the platform of Facebook. Gracie Hagen’s photographs obviously touched a nerve with Facebook users, whether that be a nerve that incites contemplation or a nerve that incites (over)reaction. Facebook’s ban of this post indicates an ignorance of user interests and reflects a larger issue with its method of censorship.

Does Facebook care about the arts? The flippant way they treat viral posts featuring “art nudity” seems to suggest otherwise. As the largest platform of social networking and sharing, Facebook should stand with and encourage the sharing of art in all of its manifestations.
Gregory Colbert, a photographer whose content was also flagged and banned from Facebook, may express our concerns (and the concerns of artists and curators who use Facebook) best:

 

If we wish to participate on the largest social networking site, at least in North America and Europe, are we going to be subject, with no recourse, to such arbitrary filters and erasure of our work? If Facebook chooses to be ex-communicative, or to set themselves up as arbiters of what is and is not art, then there should be some kind of transparency and democratic process for the community, an explanation of how these decisions are made. Perhaps it’s time to audit the auditors. There should be a way to challenge the opinions of the FB censor…

 

Facebook is not giving its community enough credit, to trust that we know the difference between art and pornography…There are all kinds of diverse views out there, and there will always be complaints against one thing or another. Are they going to take everything down? In this case, Facebook is hiding behind one complaint and ignoring the common sense values of the larger group. In the age of social networking, my question is: Are we going to be forced to live under draconian decrees and infringements on our freedom of expression on this site, or is it time to demand more transparency and democracy within about what we are and are not allowed to share?

 

Roger Weiss: http://beautifuldecay.com/2011/06/20/roger-weiss-human-forms/

Roger Weiss: http://beautifuldecay.com/2011/06/20/roger-weiss-human-forms/

Peter Stemmler aka Peekasso: http://beautifuldecay.com/2013/11/05/peekassos-strangely-delightful-collaged-pop-culture-gif-animations/

Peter Stemmler aka Peekasso: http://beautifuldecay.com/2013/11/05/peekassos-strangely-delightful-collaged-pop-culture-gif-animations/

Scout Paré Phillips: http://beautifuldecay.com/2013/03/25/the-impressive-impressions-of-scout-pare-phillips-nsfw/

Scout Paré Phillips: http://beautifuldecay.com/2013/03/25/the-impressive-impressions-of-scout-pare-phillips-nsfw/

Caroline Mackintosh: http://beautifuldecay.com/2013/04/12/caroline-mackintoshs-photographs-give-us-a-taste-of-summer-nsfw/

Caroline Mackintosh: http://beautifuldecay.com/2013/04/12/caroline-mackintoshs-photographs-give-us-a-taste-of-summer-nsfw/

Malerie Marder: http://beautifuldecay.com/2013/12/06/malerie-marders-powerful-photographs-sex-workers/

Malerie Marder: http://beautifuldecay.com/2013/12/06/malerie-marders-powerful-photographs-sex-workers/

Yossi Loloi: http://beautifuldecay.com/tag/sexual-politics/

Yossi Loloi: http://beautifuldecay.com/tag/sexual-politics/

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  • Malcolm Boura

    Facebook have no consideration at all for the objective evidence of harm and benefit, and no consideration for freedom of expression. Prudery is often described as child abuse with good intentions, but in Facebook’s case I doubt if there are any good intentions, just ideology and corporate greed. They have no excuse, the evidence of harm is overwhelming.

  • Emm

    I don’t know why if there are bare breasts in photography it’s considered art. I agree that fb is a little prudish…but I don’t want to see bare crotches on there. Can’t the images be censored ONLY for fb and if a person desires to see the full content, they can go to the website?
    I see animal cruelty on fb and somehow that is acceptable but adult nudity isn’t, so facebook is conflicted, in my opinion.

  • https://www.facebook.com/BlaiseGaubaSculptor/photos_stream Blaise Gauba

    Is Fakebook afraid of being sued by some idiot who is offended by someone’s page that they shouldn’t be on in the first place if they don’t like nude art? Fakebook has also banned me from uploading ANY videos (FOR LIFE) because when I first got onto Fakebook, I made the mistake of uploading two third party videos that I had downloaded from YouTube a couple of years earlier, and didn’t know that I was not supposed to upload third party videos, but that it is perfectly FINE to attach a LINK of the EXACT same videos from YouTube. So do deserve to be permanently punished for the remainder of my Fakebook membership?

    Keep in mind too, that Fakebook was originally financed by factions of the CIA. That can be researched and validated quite easily. **** Fakebook!

  • https://www.facebook.com/BlaiseGaubaSculptor/photos_stream Blaise Gauba

    But if you do not want to SEE bare breasts or people’s crotches, then don’t visit that particular page. That has always irked me when people complain about this television show or that gay pride parade with the crazy costumes or art in a museum that might “offend” some prudish member of our society. But if you don’t want to SEE something…then don’t look at it…don’t go to the show or the page or the site or buy the magazine or let your kids see it. Set boundaries fine, but keep your boundaries to yourselves and your children. If you cannot control your children and they won’t follow the rules, then that is really the problem of the parents or guardians who are supposed to be IN control of them. Remember, we are ALL human beings…being human. If a man or a woman either handsome or beautiful…or both unattractive…walk down the street nude…in a public place…I would neither be offended nor would it bother me if my children saw them, because nudity in all its forms IS beautiful. We are SO sexed up with corporate crap advertising and the backwards way we view the human body, that (and especially here in the Untied States of Central North America, a.k.a. the USA) it’s no wonder that diseases such as breast cancer are so prevalent.

    We are born naked…and really, we should be buried naked and in the dirt so our bodies can nurture the earth as we decompose. Instead, we fear death and naked bodies…meanwhile, we have NO problem celebrating WAR and MONEY and MATERIAL “things” that in the overall picture of our lives, none of that matters as much as our connection to each other and Mother Nature. We have long ago lost the once intrinsic connection we had with our Mother. We are so afraid of ourselves…of just being natural, happy, loving, caring, compassionate, humble and decent beings.

  • Sean

    facebook is not the entirety of the internet, its one website that belongs to someone else, not you.
    The metaphor is not that you are not being censored in a public forum/space, it is that you’re in someone else’s private residence and they have house rules, and even if they’re inconsistent, or ridiculous or offensive about how they inform and enforce those rules, those are the house rules.

  • Sean

    then dont use it, its not a requirement or necessity, just dont use fb.

    I get the impression sometimes from people that they believe facebook to be THE internet, and that it’s a public forum. Both ideas are just absolutely ridiculously dumb.

    just dont use fb. Problem solved.

  • Sean

    “I don’t know why if there are bare breasts in photography it’s considered art.”

    Art is art, its subjective. If someone only thinks of breasts as sex displays for the gratification/hornification of men, if thats all titties are for/about to a person’s world view, its going to be impossible for them to see nude photography as anything more than porn.

  • KSP

    The thing about viral reach is that it’s NOT that simple- to just not go to someone’s page. I just logged into Facebook and saw a very up close photo of pierced genitals that a piercer friend of mine posted on their tumblr, which posted to their FB. Since I follow them, the photo ended up larger than life on my giant iMac screen. At work.

    I guess I could unfollow or unfriend them if I didn’t want to see incredibly up close photos of fresh genital piercings (it doesn’t bother me a bit, but what perfect timing to also find myself on this page due to viral reach) or Facebook can say “yeah. Not that”

    Like other people have said.. their house, their rules.

  • Darren

    If you don’t like nudity, simply unfriend, unfollow or block people that show nudity. No need to do any more than that.

  • bdecay

    This definitely is not porn. If someone doesn’t like the content they should simply not visit the site. Nudity is fair game in art so if you’re visiting any art site chances are that you’re going to see a fair bit of nudity.

  • Sean

    I agree with you completely 100%. I don’t quite see why you’re telling me this, I get the feeling you’re suggesting that I personally shouldn’t visit
    the site, since I personally think its porn and you had to tell me that its not.

    I was describing the ( unfortunate ) situation with people who are incapable of seeing it otherwise, even if you say “this is def not porn” 400 different ways to them, its not going to reach them. They’re close minded, shallow, and small, and there is nothing to be done about them. It’s their lack and loss. The best you can do is say what you just said to me, expect I’m not one of them, not by a long shot, and I’m slightly offended that you felt that need to inform me, since what I wrote makes it clear which “side” I’m on.

    “If someone doesn’t like the content they should simply not visit the site.”
    That is an interestingly ironic thing to say, since the original article up there is bemoaning facebook removing the images, since the fb format doesn’t allow for such ” I wont like this I will avoid it” decisions to be made.

  • Sean

    “I don’t know why if there are bare breasts in photography it’s considered art.”

    I want to reply to this again from a different angle, because that quote I just quoted from you really bugs me:

    The breasts being bare doesn’t ‘make’ it art. Also bare breasts doesn’t stop it from being art either. Thats not how it works.

    Its not automatically considered art, or porn, just because of the nudity of the subject. Both are impossible, it’s art to whom it’s art, it’s otherwise to whom it’s otherwise. That’s the meaning of subjectivity; a work is going to be perceived, or received, liked or disliked in completely unique ways by every single set of eyes that land on it. There is no official ‘this is art, that is not’ authority.

  • EK

    I marked my acquaintance’s post as inappropriate, because he posted a video of a person being beaten and shot to death. The video was captured by a surveillance camera. Facebook moderators told me that it’s perfectly ok, to post videos of real people being murdered on camera. Even though posting violent videos are not ok.