After a rather recent public controversy over censorship rules, Facebook are revisiting their playbook when it comes to newsworthy images. Those posting images like the one at the top of this post by photography Nick Ut, were warned to remove or pixelate them to comply with Facebook’s guidelines. When even Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg reposted the photo to shot her support, her post was removed, too.
The images and associated posts have since been reinstated. It does leave obvious unanswered questions about what is and isn’t allowed, though. After receiving feedback from its community, Facebook are taking another look at their rules and how they can create a system that respects such work, while continuing to block things we don’t want to see.
It’s a tough spot for Facebook to be in. The previous blanket ban on all nudity would help to reduce the number of anonymous friend requests we receive with profiles littered full of porn. I still receive about half a dozen of those a week, but such accounts are very quickly shut down.
But then there are obviously works that have huge historical and social significance that happen to contain nudity. For these to get caught up in a sweeping catch-all ban isn’t just a case of collateral damage. It’s wrong. But, there are challenges.
Observing global standards for our community is complex. Whether an image is newsworthy or historically significant is highly subjective. Images of nudity or violence that are acceptable in one part of the world may be offensive — or even illegal — in another.
Certainly, one must respect the laws of different countries. Although, should Country A be penalised for something because Country B finds it offensive or illegal? Facebook has a wealth of targeting measures available for paying advertisers.
As a business with a page, if you want to target all females aged between 18-35 and living in a particular city anywhere in the world that like going to the gym, you can do so. Why, then, would it be so difficult for Facebook to simply prevent such posts and images from being shown in countries where deemed inappropriate and let the rest of the world get on with their day?
In the weeks ahead, we’re going to begin allowing more items that people find newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest — even if they might otherwise violate our standards.
Our intent is to allow more images and stories without posing safety risks or showing graphic images to minors and others who do not want to see them.
Facebook isn’t going to be able to prevent this no matter what they do. But should everybody else have to face the consequences as a result?
When in high school, a number of kids I knew would go buy “adult literature” at local magazine shops. You were supposed to be 18 or older to buy those magazines. But, they looked older than they were and got served (they didn’t usually ID people back then). It didn’t stop the magazines being produced, and it didn’t stop stores selling them, either.
The simple truth is, you’re almost never going to block kids from seeing things. Even if they’re not posted on Facebook, they’ll find them elsewhere if they really want to. Even if the majority of children enter their legitimate age (you have to be at least 13 to have a Facebook account), there will be those that portray themselves as older than they are.
There’s also art to consider, too. It’s not just the artwork that hangs in galleries throughout the world. There’s also the work of photographers and other artists creating for themselves or their clients. Many photographers have had work removed from Facebook for one reason or another. Many boudoir and nude photographers, have seen their posts removed for what Facebook deems obvious reasons. The clients and models in those photos have received similar treatment when posting these images. Others have seen their work removed because it “promotes violence”, despite simply being cosplay shoots themed around TV shows like The Walking Dead.
Exactly what their new standard of rules will entail remains to be seen. Fhe fact that Facebook are even starting a dialogue about it, though, shows some progress. That is, assuming it’s not all just for show and public appeasement.
What do you think? Is Facebook starting to move in a more user friendly direction with what it allows us to see and share? Or is this an exercise in PR and it’ll be business as usual in a few weeks when everybody’s forgotten about it? Do you think art has just as much right to be posted on Facebook as potentially graphic newsworthy images? Let us know in the comments.