Facebook agrees to reconsider censorship after #WeTheNipple demonstration

Facebook agrees to reconsider censorship after #WeTheNipple demonstration
Courtesy Flickr Commons.
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Who says a good ole’ fashioned protest can’t accomplish things?

After a demonstration on Sunday, Facebook has decided to sit down and re-examine their policy on censorship, particularly that of the female body, according to the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC).

In a recent statement, the NCAC announced: ‘Facebook’s policy team has committed to convening a group of stakeholders including artists, art educators, museum curators, activists, as well as Facebook employees, to examine how to better serve artists, including considering a new approach to nudity guidelines.’ To do so, the NCAC, who organized Sunday’s event alongside photographer Spencer Tunick, stated that they will be working with Facebook to establish a group of ‘well-informed,’ external experts to discuss issues of nudity on Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by the social media platform.


Spencer Tunick photographing the nude crowd. Photo Credit: Fay Fox. Courtesy the National Coalition Against Censorship.


‘We can confirm that we agreed to meet with the National Coalition Against Censorship and other stakeholders,’ stated a spokesperson for Facebook to artnet News. ‘Our conversations with the National Coalition Against Censorship preceded last weekend’s demonstration, and will continue on long after. It’s important for us to hear from directly from different communities who use Facebook and Instagram.’

Though no date has been set for the meeting, yet, it is expected to take place in the coming months according to a representative from the NACA. ‘We’re looking forward to working with Facebook and we’re heartened by their quick response to our campaign,’ they said. ‘We hope that by bringing stakeholders in the arts to the table with Facebook’s policy team and tech experts we’ll be able to work together to ensure that artists’ needs are valued in the decision-making process.’


Spencer Tunick photographing the nude crowd. Photo Credit: Fay Fox. Courtesy the National Coalition Against Censorship.


Sunday’s demonstration included about 125 women (and some men) who dropped trough right outside Facebook’s Manhattan headquarters to pose for photographs taken by Tunick. Each model covered their actual nipples with literal nipple pasties and held a large circular cutout of a nipple over themselves when instructed to. The performance was part of the NCAC’s #freethenipple campaign that began in April. The protest was against the explicitly discriminatory policies Facebook and Instagram have concerning the female body, which is felt particularly by photographers. Last year, Facebook amended their nudity policy allowing for sculptural and paintings to show the female nude but that same compensation is not extended to photographers. For that reason, a number of artists have found their work and social media accounts to be censored by algorithms the organizations use to spot inappropriate photographs. Even the ‘WeTheNipple’ hashtag was censored on Instagram following the demonstration.

In an open letter released Sunday afternoon from the NCAC’s director Christopher Finan, the NCAC recognized the difficulty such large organizations have in monitoring the billions of posts each day. Finan continued, though, stating that the ‘challenge does not justify banning all photographic images of the nude body, a ban that imposes the beliefs of some Facebook users on the entire world, stifles artistic expression, and enforces gender discrimination by permitting images of male nipples while prohibiting female nipples.’

So, it seems there just might be hope for the nipple to be at least a bit more free in the coming months.