Facebook Frees the Nipple, Relaxes Breastfeeding Policy

If you’re a mother who wants to post photos of you breastfeeding your child on Facebook, the company has finally decided that it’s a-ok in their book. Well, in the majority of cases. Faceb...
Facebook Frees the Nipple, Relaxes Breastfeeding Policy
Written by Josh Wolford
  • If you’re a mother who wants to post photos of you breastfeeding your child on Facebook, the company has finally decided that it’s a-ok in their book.

    Well, in the majority of cases.

    Facebook has made a slight alteration to their policy on breastfeeding photos. In a help post asking Does Facebook allow photos of mothers breastfeeding?, Facebook has changed their wording a bit. Here’s what it now reads:

    Yes. We agree that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful and we’re glad to know that it’s important for mothers to share their experiences with others on Facebook. The vast majority of these photos are compliant with our policies.

    Please note that the photos we review are almost exclusively brought to our attention by other Facebook members who complain about them being shared on Facebook.

    In reality, that stance sounds very similar to the stance Facebook has had for years. But here’s the unspoken change in Facebook’s policy now and Facebook’s policy a few weeks ago –

    For a long time, Facebook allowed non-sexual female nudity in the context of breastfeeding – but only if the only nipple exposed was the one nursing the baby. If the photo had a non-babied exposed nipple, it was ripe for moderation and would likely be yanked.

    Now, Facebook is freeing the nipple if you will, as long as the photo is still in the context of breastfeeding.

    If it seems ridiculous that we have to discuss just how exposed certain nipples are in a photo, that’s because it is. It’s ridiculous that this has to be a thing – but Facebook’s breast phobia is well-documented. For years, breastfeeding activists have lamented Facebook’s photo removal process. The issue finally came to a head in early 2012, when Facebook gave a lengthy statement where they said that they place limitations on nudity “due to the presence of minors on the site.”

    “On some occasions, breastfeeding photos contain nudity — for example an exposed breast that is not being used for feeding — and therefore violate our terms. When such photos are reported to us and are found to violate our policies, the person who posted the photo is contacted, and the photos are removed,” said Facebook at the time.

    And that’s precisely the fine print that seems to have been removed.

    One blogger and #FreeTheNipple activist decided to test Facebook’s new policy on breastfeeding photos. After initially having the photo removed by Facebook’s moderation team, the photo was later reinstated with the typical apology and it was removed in error explanation.

    While breastfeeding activists will see this as a victory – and they should – it’s important to remember that Facebook outsources most of its content moderation, and is really kind of bad at it. Oftentimes, things that are perfectly Facebook-legal wind up removed and users find themselves with temporary bans for posting ‘obscene’ content. In most cases, Facebook apologizes and the natural order is restored.

    But the point is – you’re still going to see breastfeeding photos removed in error. They’ll likely get restored, but Facebook’s content moderation setup simply isn’t sophisticated enough to go 100 percent error free.

    Plus, if you go back and reread their updated policy, you’ll find plenty of wiggle room.

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