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Nudity and Facebook's Censors. Find out what?

Social network’s deletion of Pulitzer-prize winning Vietnam photograph is just latest in a long list of debates
Facebook deletes Norwegian PM’s post.

Disputes covering what pictures Facebook will allow on its immense social network are nothing new: its no-nudity picture policy has caused controversy due it's less than suggestive appearance.

Apart from the deletion of the Pulitzer-prize winning photograph of a napalm attack in southern Vietnam, pictures of breastfeeding are often removed. In 2008, the company banned and eliminated any such images that displayed nipples, creating a backlash and demonstrations from numerous mothers.

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The company’s image censorship guidelines were leaked to the press in 2012. They specifically asked for analysts to remove images of breastfeeding if the nipples were shown but to allow “graphic images” of animals if shown in the “context of food processing or hunting as it happens in nature”, resulting in further objections. The company explained its guidelines on nudity in 2015 but has not changed its policy.

Facebook says its policies are intended at stopping pornography and abuse.
Facebook says it uses both automated systems and human reviewers before taking action. Users of the social network are requested to actively report, by onsite tools, images they believe could violate Facebook’s “community standards”.

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An automated system examines those reports and flags images to human inspectors who decide if they break the site’s guidelines, which definitely condemn nudity.

Facebook says: “We restrain the display of nudity because some audiences within our global population may be sensitive to this type of content – especially because of their cultural background or age.

“We remove photographs of people displaying genitals or directing in on fully exposed buttocks. We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring.”

If content is found to oppose Facebook’s rules, it is deleted and accounts can be banned or removed. The company says the greatest difficulty is that for reasons of fairness and speed “it is essential that we have policies in place that our global teams can apply uniformly and easily when reviewing content”. That means one global guideline for all, regardless of local sensitivities.

Exemptions should clearly be made in some situations, but Facebook’s difficulty is when and where those one-offs should be judged and how not to allow, undesirable content through.

Zuckerberg continues to claim that Facebook isn't a media organization, just a technology corporation. But it is one with arguably more influence than any other organization on the planet for shaping the news agenda through publicity or restriction.

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