In Facebook’s official content guidelines, hidden away between bans on the depiction of rape and bestiality, necrophilia and pedophilia, you can find their official policy on photos of breastfeeding. As long as there are no exposed nipples visible in the picture, breastfeeding photos are supposedly permitted on the social networking site. (Male nipples are, ironically, not an issue.)
However, that’s just not what many mothers report. Alicia Eler of Read Write Web notes that photos considered “appropriate” by the policy are often flagged and removed regardless. One Vancouver mother, Emma Kwasnica, has had 30 breastfeeding photos removed and has had her account shut down four times. On one occasion, she was even banned from the site for a month.
When called out on their mixed messages and double standards regarding breastfeeding images by the Huffington Post, Facebook responded:
“We agree that breastfeeding is natural and we are very glad to know that it is important for mothers, including the many mothers who work at Facebook, to share their experience with others on the site. The vast majority of breastfeeding photos are compliant with our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Facebook takes no action on such content. However, photos which contain a fully exposed breast, do violate our terms and may be removed if they are reported to us. These policies are based on the same standards that apply to television and print media. It is important to note that photos upon which we act are almost exclusively brought to our attention by other users who complain about them being shared on Facebook.”
Emma Kwasnica disagrees with this official statement, noting in an interview with the Huffington Post that “at least 30 women I know have had accounts shut down for a single breastfeeding image.” She went on to state:
“It is obvious to me now that Facebook really has lost control of their network, especially when their written policy clearly states they support the sharing of breastfeeding images, yet they say they cannot control the actions of their employees who keep removing breastfeeding images and who block accounts of the users who post them – usually ‘in error.’ This is exasperating to me.”
The Guardian, for its part, has responded to the policy by inviting breastfeeding mothers to submit photos of themselves, which the paper is reposting on its Tumblr page. (Unlike Facebook, the Guardian has no nipple-censorship policy, so be warned if you’re reading at work.) You can view the gallery and the Guardian’s take on the whole debacle here.
Photo credit: slyvar