On Wednesday, June 5th 2019, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) announced that Facebook would reconsider its controversial policy on nude images posted to its social network. As it stands, nudity on Facebook may only be depicted in paintings or sculptures, not in photographs, artistic or otherwise.
Facebook’s current community guidelines prohibit photographic nudity outright, specifically, the “female nipple.” The social media giant’s restrictive policy was challenged early this June of 2019 when a photographer staged a protest-like photoshoot outside of the company’s headquarters. The shoot featured over 100 nude models holding large cut-outs of male nipples. This gave a big symbolic “middle finger” to the double-standard of bodily censorship between genders that Facebook enforces. In the wake of this protest, the NCAC has coordinated a meeting between Facebook reps and artists, curators, activists, and the like, aimed at some mutually acceptable agreement on nudity in photography.
Facebook’s strict nudity policy may seem antiquated; sites like Flickr, Tumblr, Reddit, and DeviantArt allow some form of nudity. Privately held companies like Reddit don’t have stock prices to worry about, which is probably why they aren’t as concerned with issues like liability or investor retainment as Facebook is. But since Facebook is an American company, their prudishness should come as no surprise. The United States has a puritanical tradition in viewing the human form, at least compared to many other Western countries. It also seems that often, the larger the corporation, the more conservative it strives to appear, at least as it grows more prominent. Consider that before he co-founded Facebook, a college-aged Mark Zuckerberg developed a site as a “let’s rate chicks’ looks on campus” service.
Perhaps it’s time Facebook considers its impact on artistic communities and freedom of expression. As artists, many of us photographers rely on certain creative freedoms to fully express ourselves and make our work commercially viable. Facebook is an enormously important outlet for photographers who need to share their work, and many of us are frustrated at restrictions that can prohibit reasonable sharing.
Do you feel that it’s time for Facebook to loosen its grip on nudity in photography, or are yiu convinced that censorship is necessary for this platform? Your opinions are welcome in the comments section below.
Images used with permission of Nino Batista.