TIME Magazine recently ran a feature on Facebook pulling out photos that it deemed obscene, including those that had some exposed parts of the female anatomy. However, this blanket banning has also included images of mothers breastfeeding their babies, and this has resulted in some protest by rights advocates.
Facebook has drawn a line in the sand by removing any photos it deems obscene, including those containing a fully exposed breast, which the site defines as “showing the nipple or areola.” In other words, plunging necklines or string bikinis are fine â€” just no nips. The purging of bare-boob pics began last summer and has swept up, alongside any girls gone wild, a growing number of proud â€” and very ticked-off â€” breast feeders.
On Dec. 27, some 11,000 protesters held a virtual nurse-in by uploading breast-feeding photos onto their Facebook profiles, and 20 or so women showed up at the company’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., to breast-feed there. By Dec. 30, more than 85,000 members had joined a Facebook group called “Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!”
Blogging and social media sites being accessible to just about anyone with Internet connections, and true enough, users are able to upload any image they wish, as long as these follow the terms of the online service they use. However, in the above case with Facebook, it’s clearly a subjective case of ethics. The question here is what constitutes obscenity? Does the mere showing of a woman’s breasts constitute obscenity? Or should there be sexual implications to this? And how about images of breastfeeding?
Most web applications allow for mature (though mostly not adult) content, but these are not displayed to the public, but rather to those who verify that they are of legal age (which is altogether not difficult to work around). But in a situation where one’s public profile photo might be the image in question, for instance, it becomes an issue of whether the web application can deny public access to the photo.
For a social network that started out as a network for college students, one could expect a sense of maturity from its users. This means that if you see a photo of a woman breastfeeding, or even shirtless for that matter, but without sexual implications, then there should be no malice. But then again, Facebook is now open to any user 13 years of age and above. And in this case, it’s a big grey area.