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Lactivists vs. Facebook Content Policies

Over the holidays a friend of mine told me about an interesting development with Facebook who recently angered a lot of online moms who are ‘lactivists’ or breast-feeding advocates. They are angry over Facebook deleting photos of breast-feeding moms as obscene content. The mom’s have formed a group called “Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding Is Not Obscene” which currently has about 11,000 members. In a community of 50.5 million that number doesn’t seem very large but neither was the number of Twittering moms that caused Johnson & Johnson to change its Motrin ads after its mom-focused ad offended them. Facebook will probably be less easily swayed as it quickly points to it’s terms of service which state that pictures exposing a full breast will be taken down. Facebook isn’t saying photos of women breast feeding won’t be allowed on their site but they are saying any pictures that expose the full breast will be taken down whether they involve breast feeding or anything else with no filter for context or sexuality applied.

To be fair I can see both sides of the issue on that but in this case the bottom line is that as much as we would like it to be, our Facebook page and it’s content isn’t really yours. It is subject to the rules of the Facebook site and like any community anything that is against the rules isn’t allowed to be in that community. It happens all the time in other publications and while I was researching some numbers for this entry I found a story where the St. Petersburg Times wrote about the protest and how the mom’s had been wronged by Facebook. Facebook then did something interesting to make their point and called the paper’s advertising department and asked whether an ad could be placed related to breast-feeding that showed a woman with her breast fully exposed. It was told the ad would need to be reviewed and that such an image would not generally be allowed in the paper.

This is the second time this year Facebook has found it’s way to into my blog as the source of controversy and I am trying to find the logic between this issue and the jaw dropping hate speech I found on the application Pieces of Flair during the presidential campaign. I know online communities have to have rules because you can’t assume everyone is going to play nice all the time and part of creating a community is creating the rules that govern it. All of that being said what I struggle with more than anything is where and when Facebook draws that line on where they are going to step in. What is the logic that says a bare breast in a photo of a mother and child is so offensive it has to be removed immediately but imagery of Obama as a monkey or McCain as a Nazi and the hate speech that goes with it is perfectly fine. I know the Facebook answer will be that Pieces of Flair was developed by someone else so it isn’t subject to the same rules. I think that is crap because if you are going to go down the slippery slope and make those kind of decision on what is acceptable then you better be ready to enforce it across the board. You should realize that if it lives in your community in any form then it is part of your community and you should have enough spine to stand for those beliefs all the time.

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