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UPDATED Facebook Told Mother: Remove Photos of Down Syndrome Child

UPDATED Facebook Told Mother: Remove Photos of Down Syndrome Child

UPDATE: 10:00pm EST: Facebook has unsuspended the account of Diana Cornwell, the mother who posted photos of her 7-year-old son Cole at a Special Olympics event last Friday, only to find that Facebook had flagged them on Sunday for “violating” the social media site’s terms of use.

Thank you to all who signed the petition!

We need to make sure that what happened to Diana and Cole Cornwell won’t happen to other families with children with disabilities. As she wrote on the petition:

Facebook needs to change its policy on how photos are flagged. I feel if you flag a photo you must submit a reason and then Facebook should review it before deciding. If Cole were older and understood more, this would be devastating to him.

As another mother of a child with disabilities, I cannot agree more with Diana Cornwell’s words. Please tell Facebook not to censor photos of kids with disabilities!

Last Friday, Diana Cornwell did what many parents of children with disabilities do after a successful experience with a child who has more needs than many: She posted photos of her 7-year-old son, Cole, who has Down Syndrome and is non-verbal, on Facebook. On Friday afternoon, Cole had attended his first Special Olympics event, at a local high school in Davison County, North Carolina. As his mother told WCNC (News Channel 36), he was “all smiles.”

Cornwell uploaded 40 photos into a new album on Friday night. When she logged back into Facebook on Sunday, she was informed that she had violated Facebook’s terms of use and was told, “Never upload any photos that contain hate speech, support for violent organizations or threats to harm others.”

Beside every photo Cornwell had posted of “special needs kids having a blast, playing games and receiving commendations for what they accomplished that day,” she saw checkmarks indicating that she was supposed to remove the photos. She removed one of Cole with a scarecrow to see what might happen and received a “thank you” message for doing so. Cornwell was also told that her account would be blocked for three days for uploading the photo.

According to Cornwell, she does not know if Facebook itself flagged her photos or if someone else did and then Facebook took action. She was not informed, she says, before her account was blocked; she has contacted Facebook but has not yet received a response.

Cornwell describes herself as “astound[ed]” about the flagging of her photos, not to mention her being banned from Facebook as a result: “All the kids were having a great time. Can’t help but fall in love,” as she said to WCNC.

You do have to wonder if Facebook, if some live human being working for Facebook, actually looked at the photos to see why they had been flagged. Sure, it could be said that Facebook can’t be expected to look at every single photo. But given the acknowledged popularity of the social media site and of Facebook  today — and taking into account the huge public “end the r-word” campaign to raise awareness about individuals with disabilities and the effects of discriminatory language — Facebook is showing a deep degree of insensitivity to special needs children and their families, by charging Cornwell with “violating” the site’s terms and requesting that she remove her photos of Cole. Such censorship of photos of children having a happy experience at a Special Olympics event is simply uncalled for, and troubling.

Take Action: Tell Facebook not to censor photos of children with disabilities.


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Photo used with permission from Diana Cornwell

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4:38PM PDT on May 1, 2014

OMG! Josh Rimer did a story on this today!

4:37PM PDT on May 1, 2014

OMG! Josh Rimer did a story on this today!

9:16PM PDT on Jun 23, 2012

I got into an argument with this page on facebook, they posted some offensive photos of children with down syndrome. How can facebook allow that and then tell this mom to remove her photos? Makes no sense to me
(BTW- I am 34 weeks pregnant with a down syndrome son)

4:30AM PDT on May 22, 2012

geesh, this is not offensive at all...

1:33PM PDT on May 21, 2012

Indeed! Why on Earth someone flags photos of people with Down Syndrome?

12:06PM PDT on May 18, 2012

This has just happened again to a woman who posted pictures of her son who was born with birth defects. The story is below:

4:21PM PDT on May 2, 2012

Is there more to the story? Has FB ever explained their rationale? Or, is there any?

6:23AM PDT on May 1, 2012

What in the world was wrong with the pics? I just don't get it. I don't use Facebook. Never have and never will.

11:06AM PDT on Apr 29, 2012

what kind of person would flag a pic like that? that's just heartless!

10:07PM PDT on Apr 27, 2012

another reason I am glad I do not have facebook account

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