Meta may soon lift the ban on the publication of photos with bare female breasts on Facebook and Instagram. The company’s advisory board argues that such a restriction hinders the right of expression for women, transgender and non-binary people.
On January 17, an advisory board (a group of academics, politicians and journalists advising Meta on content moderation) recommended that the company change its community standards for posting nudity to be guided by clear criteria that meet international human rights standards.
The decision was preceded by censorship of the publication of a transgender and non-binary American couple: with a topless photo, but with covered nipples and a description of the fundraising for the operation. Users complained about the post, which was then deleted by the Meta AI. After the couple appealed the ban, the post was reinstated.
The advisory board notes that the policy “is based on a binary view of gender and distinguishes between the female and male body” (by the way, male breasts with nipples are easily skipped on Facebook and Instagram), thereby making the rules “incomprehensible” when it comes to intersex, non-binary and transgender users.
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Back in the 2000s, activists struggled to overcome breast sexualization, and in 2013, the #FreetheNipple campaign went mainstream after Facebook removed clips from actress-director Lina Esco’s documentary.
The campaign received widespread support on college campuses and among celebrities (Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and Lena Dunham). Florence Pugh recently took to the red carpet in a sheer hot pink Valentino gown, saying:
“Of course I don’t want to offend people, but how can my nipples offend you?”
More than a decade ago, breastfeeding mothers held their first rally at Facebook headquarters in protest.
A rally near the headquarters of Facebook. Photo: Dan Sullivan
In 2015, Los Angeles-based artist Mikol Hebron created stickers of male nipples for Instagram users to put on top of their own to mock unfair politics.
Hebron was invited to Instagram headquarters in 2019 with a group of influencers to talk about the company’s nipple policy.
“We learned that there were no transgender people on the content moderation team, and there were no gender-neutral restrooms on the premises either. That was all it took to understand that conversations about gender and inclusion are not being made at Meta,” Hebron said.
A Meta spokesperson denied Hebron’s characterization of the event, adding: “A lot has changed since 2019.”
The artist says she is “excited” by the advisory board’s current decision:
“Other than just ‘let women be topless’, which doesn’t interest me at all, I think it’s very important to allow all bodies to have autonomy. For many people, it seems that talking about nipples is not serious. But think about how governments around the world are trying to control and suppress female bodies, transbodies or non-binary bodies.”
A spokesperson for Meta said in a statement that “the company welcomes the board’s decision on this case”:
“We are constantly improving our policies to help make our platforms safer for everyone. We know that more can be done to support the LGBTQ+ community, which means working with experts and LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations on a range of issues and product improvements. “.
Meta has 60 days to publicly respond to the council’s recommendations. And while supporters of the #FreetheNipple movement have already begun to rejoice at the decision, there are still questions about how automated content moderation systems will be able to introduce a new breast policy. Fundraising for a couple for an operation is not exactly sexual content. But the AI didn’t notice the difference at first, did it? Then how will systems be able to distinguish topless photos from porn content?
Gillian York, an activist and director of international free speech at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, added that it’s “difficult” for companies using artificial intelligence to make the right decision anyway.
“For example, it is not easy for automated technology to determine who is a topless adult and who is a topless child. AI can distinguish between a 9-year-old and a 26-year-old, but what about a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old?” she said.
In 2020, after a three-month public campaign, Instagram and Facebook were already changing their rules on female nudity to allow “content in which someone simply hugs, takes or holds their breasts.”
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Source: The Guardian