This Photo of an Elbow Is Too Hot for FacebookBy: Josh Wolford - November 26, 2012
In the past, we’ve been pretty critical of Facebook’s breast phobia (and its policies relating to nudity and content removal in general). As you may know, Facebook mostly outsources its policing of content. This, coupled with the sheer volume of content being uploaded to the site on a daily basis, makes for a flawed process that leads to plenty of errors.
In the end, you have to cut Facebook some slack. Just think about how difficult the task of moderating all of that content must be. Of course, no amount of discerning eyes could adequately cycle through the billions and billions of links, photos, and videos shared each and every day. Facebook continues to rely heavily on user reporting, and its crew of moderators at multiple global offices have a tough job – mainly determining what content violates Facebook restrictions, however convoluted they may be.
Having said that, it’s always funny when Facebook bans content that has no reason to be banned. The latest case involves this image, which features a nude women reclining in a bathtub.
Except there’s no nudity or even any suggestion of sexual activity. Here’s the image:
Did it fool you? Yes, what appears to be an exposed breast is actually just the woman’s elbow. Doesn’t matter, however, as Facebook removed the content anyway.
The image was posted by the Theories of the deep understanding of things page, who decided to troll the social network in order to test its photo removal policy.
“So, Here’s last night’s FB alertness test results: FB moderators can’t tell an elbow from a dangerous, filthy, uncanny and violent female breast>> no questions were asked and the post is down> Imagine our surprise >” they said in a post.
Apparently, they set out to provoke Facebook and succeeded.
Facebook’s current policy bans “Any obvious sexual activity, even if naked parts are hidden from view by hands, clothing or other objects. Cartoon/art included. Foreplay allowed (kissing, groping, etc.) even for same-sex individuals. Naked ‘private part,’ including females nipple bulges and naked butt cracks; male nipples are ok.” Arty nudity is OK, but breastfeeding images are still a no-go. It looks like elbows are on the no-post list as well.
Like I said before, policing all of that content must be a nightmare. Back in September, Facebook mistakenly removed a New Yorker cartoon, which contained the most harmless depiction of female breasts imaginable (two black dots for nipples). After public outcry, Facebook made this statement:
“Recently, we mistakenly blocked a cartoon as part of our efforts to keep the site safe for all and quickly worked to rectify the mistake as soon as we were notified. Facebook is a place where almost a billion people share click more than a trillion links a day. Our dedicated User Operations Team reviews millions of pieces of this content a day to help keep Facebook safe for all. Our policies are enforced by a team of reviewers in several offices across the globe. This team looks at hundreds of thousands of reports every week, and as you might expect, occasionally, we make a mistake and block a piece of content we shouldn’t have. We have already taken steps to prevent this from happening in the future and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience.”
In short, Facebook and its content moderators make mistakes. It’s inevitable. But a slight relaxing of the aforementioned content policies probably wouldn’t hurt. It would definitely result in less ridiculous removals like we see in this case. Then again, nobody wants Facebook to turn into YouPorn.