Facebook Censors Nude Breastfeeding Photos



Documents recently leaked to Gawker confirm what the breastfeeding community has always suspected. In the leaked “Abuse Standards Violation” document, Facebook employees are specifically directed to delete images of “Mothers breastfeeding without clothes,” and “Naked children…”

Facebook has been widely criticized for its content moderation standards and those who complain are often referred to the vague Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.  According to Gawker, “If users knew exactly what criteria was being used to judge their content, they could hold Facebook to them. It would be clear what Facebook was choosing to censor according to its policies, and what amounts to arbitrary censorship.”

In addition, according to the whistle blower, content management services are outsourced to countries like Turkey, the Philippines, Mexico and India where workers are paid from $1 to $4 an hour. Aside from the ethical questions raised by this arrangement, how could workers from different countries interpret the FB standards consistently?

Internet censorship is a hot topic right now because of the recent controversy over SOPA and PIPA, and as Facebook prepares to go public, the company is being closely scrutinized. “I don’t know whether dictatorship is the right word, but it more or less defies every vestige of shareholder democracy known to man…I don’t think it’s how business should be run.” said Larry Haverty of Gamco Investors Inc. in the San Francisco Chronicle last week.

With these kinds of standards and governance in place, how can the breastfeeding community continue to impact Facebook? Last week thousands of breastfeeding mothers demonstrated in front of Facebook headquarters around the world. Historically, these types of nurse-ins have been effective in bringing an issue to public awareness but they have not been successful in changing the censorship policy of Facebook.

What I wonder about in regards to the FB censorship is how breastfeeding photos are being reported. Though Facebook is a public forum, images are semi-private. You have to be friends with someone to see their photos. Nude breastfeeding photos don’t often appear as someone’s main photo. This means that someone who reports a photo may be befriending and then stalking someone they don’t know. Are voyeurs reporting these photos? Maybe they are the ones who should be reported.

I’m not sure where we go from here, but I know that the breastfeeding community is among many voices challenging Facebook at this time. What do you think?

Are all breastfeeding photos appropriate for Facebook or are some private?

Is there a different standard for an image in a general forum, like Facebook, than for an image in a breastfeeding-friendly forum like Mothering, for example?

What do you think would be the ideal breastfeeding image standard for Facebook?



Peggy O’Mara  (101 Posts)

Peggy O’Mara founded Mothering.com in 1995 and is currently its editor-in chief. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has lectured and conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League International, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four.

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7 thoughts on “Facebook Censors Nude Breastfeeding Photos”

  1. I think it’s ridiculous that these images would be censored, they are not pornographic. The human female is so commercially and sensationally oversexualized in most formats, but this is probably not one of them. I agree that it is difficult to ensure consistency in said scrutiny, due to the fact that the workers censoring the images are in different countries, with varying cultural sensitivities to the issue of breastfeeding visibility. Also, it does seem shady that private or semi-private accounts, and their pictures, are being so closely monitored. How is that legal? My ideal image of breastfeeding would be any that a nursing mother is comfortable and confident sharing. It should really stop there.

  2. Facebook definitely goes overboard with the censorship of breastfeeding photos. What’s wrong with a baby nursing? The cute milky grins near their food source are just fun to share as well.

    I personally cover up and don’t like to share breastfeeding pics that might show my breast but that’s my choice and I can understand the desire to share.

  3. I am glad to know the standard. They really should have published it. If they don’t delete breastfeeding photos, just “nude breastfeeding” photos, then this makes sense to me. This does not seem to be anti-breastfeeding, but anti-nudity, which they are entitled to do (and honestly, I’m thankful for). They have to draw the line somewhere, and if it’s no nudity, then I can understand why they wouldn’t want to make any exceptions. As long as they are not targeting breastfeeding (which I had suspected), then I actually understand the rule. I understand that some photos fall into the exclusion even though they shouldn’t (like the adorable one above), but it is probably not practical for such a huge company to make subjective decisions. They have to go through so many photos, and they want to be consistent. It is just easier to for the rule to be over-broad. Anyway, thankfully, there are many other mediums where we can post beautiful pics of ourselves nursing, if we want to.

  4. Even these guidelines for outsourced employees are not clear or consistent, and they are also not beIng followed. I have many reports of deleted photos and suspended accounts where the breastfeeding mother is clearly clothed. Facebook is not in control of its own network. If it cannot solve this relatively simple problem, how can it convince shareholders that it can return a consistent and stable profit in a reasonably ethical way? For that is where we must go from here, Peggy. The influential mom demographic needs to partner with ethical advertisers, and organizations using Facebook to reach us. Advertisers need to hear how unhappy Facebook’s mismanagement of this situation makes us, and how important it is for those who use Facebook to reach us to be aligned with us as we push Facebook to make it right.

  5. Facebook should allow pictures of nursing mothers and babies. Period.

    However, I would not assume that any of your facebook pictures are private or semi-private. Unless you have been very diligent with your privacy settings, people you’ve never heard of can see your pictures. An example: I don’t have a facebook account, but my husband does. One night I was looking at something on his account, clicked on my brother’s profile, and saw that he had recently become facebook friends with a childhood acquaintance. I wanted to see what this person looked like as an adult, so I clicked on her profile picture, and not long afterward was looking at pictures from her family’s Thanksgiving dinner. I haven’t seen this person in 25 years, and never knew her well. From my husband’s account, and he’s never met her or even heard of her, I could see her personal photos. Just saying…

    But back to the point of this post: Facebook should allow photos of nursing mothers and babies. Period.

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