Facebook Faces Nature’s Wrath in Breastfeeding Photo Flap

In a world where “man boobs” are allowed to flop freely at football games, the strict scrutiny of photos of breastfeeding mothers reflects a double standard that has riled many Facebook users. By curbing the posting of such content — the implication being that the nursing mother’s bare breast could possibly be construed as “obscene” — Facebook has exposed itself to a public relations nightmare.

The social network is under fire for removing photos of breastfeeding babies from some of its member pages.

In fact, Facebook has attracted the ire of at least one group organized on its own network, one called “Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!”

The group’s basic premise is that breastfeeding is natural and is inherently not obscene. The group’s site notes, “We’re wondering: What about a baby breastfeeding is obscene? Especially in comparison to MANY other pictures posted all over Facebook that really are obscene. Facebook, we expect more from you, and we expect you to realize that nursing moms everywhere have a right to show pictures of their babies eating, just like bottle-fed babies have a right to be seen. In an effort to appease the closed-minded, you are only serving to be detrimental to babies, women and society.”

In-Person Protests – and Virtual Protests, Too

The latest brouhaha for Facebook reportedly started in October when user Heather Farley posted her own breastfeeding photos. Facebook apparently removed the photos, and when Farley posted another, she received a warning from Facebook that she could lose her account if she posted more.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Facebook hasn’t responded to Farley’s electronic messages over the matter, which led her to stage an on-the-street protest in front of Facebook’s Palo Alto headquarters on Saturday. (Farley is from Utah and was in the area over the holidays.)

While the in-person protest was represented only a tiny handful of Facebook users, the “Hey, Facebook” group boasts 85,000 members.

While Farley and a few others were on the street, 11,000 people got in on the Facebook protest online.

According to the “Hey, Facebook” site, the group spawned a broader grassroots calling card, the M.I.L.C. (Mothers International Lactation Campaign) … and the online M.I.L.C. protest was the first event.

“Participants from around the globe joined our virtual protest of Facebook’s discriminatory practice of arbitrarily and randomly removing breastfeeding pictures from member profiles and albums, classifying them as obscene content. We raised our collective voices in opposition to Facebook by posting a breastfeeding image as our profile picture and changing our status line to: ‘Hey Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!'” the protest group explained.

The group also reported that some members received warnings and had their breastfeeding photos removed during and after the event — and even posted several of the offending photos on a non-Facebook Web site.

Busy Facebook Admins?

With all those breastfeeding pics suddenly popping up, might Facebook have spent most of the weekend zapping the offending photos? Probably not.

Facebook released a statement to TechNewsWorld explaining its stance beyond the Facebook Terms of Use rules:

We agree that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful, and we’re very glad to know that it is so important to some mothers to share this experience with others on Facebook. We take no action on the vast majority of breastfeeding photos because they follow the site’s Terms of Use. Photos containing a fully exposed breast (as defined by showing the nipple or areola) do violate those Terms and may be removed. These policies are designed to ensure Facebook remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for all users, including the many children (over the age of 13) who use the site. The photos we act upon are almost exclusively brought to our attention by other users who complain.

Facebook, it turns out, has plenty of practice in deleting breastfeeding photos — it’s been removing photos at least as early as 2007, which is also when the “Hey, Facebook” group got started. In August of 2007, it had 6,000 members.

So what’s the count here, anyway? Has Facebook only removed a few photos? Or thousands?

“We do not have any data to share on how many breastfeeding photos have been removed,” Barry Schnitt, a spokesperson for Facebook, told TechNewsWorld.

2 Comments

  • Before breastfeeding mothers get all offended by their policy, maybe they should realize that not everyone, including other women, think that breastfeeding is a beautiful. I understand that it is good for a baby for a certain amount of time, but it grosses me out to witness it.

    • I am glad Facebook is trying to keep the site appropriate for all users. In our breast-obsessed society, it is hard to distinguish between a picture being beautiful or obscene, especially when our bodies have been so "objectified" in America.

      Breastfeeding is not obscene and if you haven’t been around a person who has breastfed a child successfully, it is hard to appreciate. It is a great way to give a baby nourishment and a feeling of security and closeness to their mother. It is what breasts were intended to do. If you don’t like to see it, don’t look.

      I have known a lot of women who have breast-fed their baby in public and usually, no one even notices.

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