Facebook and I have had a tenuous relationship over the last couple of years. Sometimes it felt like a downright war but for the past year or so it’s been fairly peaceful. After the big blowup that received international attention things simmered down and I’d continue posting breastfeeding photos, they’d delete one every month or so, I’d get slapped with a warning or a photo loading suspension, after pressing them FB would say it was deleted in error, I’d post the photo they deleted again, they’d leave me alone for a while, etc. Then the game stopped entirely and I must confess, I didn’t miss it.
But then this morning this:
Ok, someone visited either The Leaky Boob Facebook page or Jessica The Leaky Boob Facebook page and were shocked to discover breastfeeding photos there. Either out of wanting to protect me from my own indecent exposure, spare my baby some potential future embarrassment, or because they just found the “nudity” offensive, they reported my photo.
I clicked continue which led to this page:
I scrolled down to find the section that would address what exactly I did that violated their Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and found this:
Huh, that’s strange. According to this statement it actually looks like the person that reported my photo AND Facebook violated the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, not me. Which makes me wonder, did the person (or people) that reported this image also get a warning? Since they clearly violated the community standards and essentially harrassed me when I was completely within my rights as outlined in Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and I clearly did not, did they receive a virtual reprimand for their actions?
Since I suspect I already know I’ll receive the generic apology FB offers anyone that calls them out on their inconsistency and will be told that my image was removed “in error” I’ll go ahead and put it back up. Since they didn’t mean to remove it and all.
Also, it’s worth noting that according to this statement there is nothing about what exactly is showing, nothing about nipples, areola, or anything else. Just that FB respects people’s right to share content of personal importance and includes family photos of a child breastfeeding. So it’s not about the nipple or areola, it does require that the child be actively engaged at the breast, a policy I find ridiculous but even according to their own policy, the photo they removed was within compliance.
A few points
Why share breastfeeding photos on FB? Some may feel it’s too private to share, I don’t. In fact, I believe it’s crucial to share breastfeeding photos. Gone are the days where breastfeeding is seen in the day in and day out living of our lives in a community, replaced instead with virtual communities found on Facebook, forums, and other social media platforms. Social media and virtual communities need to be as multidimensional as the physical community or we lose ourselves as a society, relating to each other as a slick collection of data without the human and biological component that makes us alive. We need to see breastfeeding in real life and in the virtual world that many of us relate in as our community. This photo may seem obscene to some but to others it was inspiring and encouraging, leading some to even learn something about breastfeeding.
Facebook can do what it wants, you don’t have to use it. True, FB can and true, I don’t have to use it. But I know they want me to and I know that their advertisers want me to. I am a part of their market and as such I am going to let them know what I think of their service including when it’s just not working for me. Obviously they care, in the past 2 years they’ve changed their public stance on breastfeeding to include the statement above. Which now means they need to keep their own standards. If I were them, I’d want to know when my company was violating it’s very own terms. Being quite and just taking whatever a company does because they can do what they want means the company doesn’t have the opportunity to improve. Additionally, that would never fly in discriminating against someone because of their skin color, their sexual orientation, or just about anything else.
Children could see it, FB is just protecting the younger users. My personal feelings about children being on Facebook aside, my personal belief about children actually needing to see images of breastfeeding and women in the physical world breastfeeding aside; the reality is Facebook has clearly stated that these images are acceptable within the community standards. Which means if a parent doesn’t want their child to see such images, the parent should not permit their child to be on Facebook and when they do allow their child to be there, they have agreed to these very community standards that permit these images.
Facebook is protecting you, they don’t want someone to use your image for inappropriate reasons. Hi, I am an adult. I am capable of making the decision to share my image for myself and as the mother of my child, I bear that responsibility as well. It is insulting to have someone feel they need to protect me from the decision I make. I do not need a savior protecting me from what they deem are stupid and irresponsible decisions. Not to mention those pesky community standards that say I have the right to share such photos.
It’s not Facebook, they automatically delete images that other people flag, it’s the people reporting that are the problem. Again, true, at least partially true. People reporting these images are part of the problem. Hopefully some day they won’t see anything in an image like this that they deem requires reporting but until then, FB has the responsibility to enforce their own terms and standards. Do they really want us to believe they are helplessly at the mercy of their users flagging habits? It has also recently come to light that FB does in fact employ a team to review flagged material and has standards those reviewing the content are to follow. So it’s not an automatic response to any flagging or certain number of reports, it is deliberately removed and by someone that is supposed to be following FB’s own community standards. (Wonder how the whole reporting thing works? This guide explains it with a handy little graphic to break it down.)
Why does it matter? I’m one user out of millions traveling Facebooks roads of community, networking and connecting with old friends and making new ones. Along the way I’m sharing my life with those people and they share their lives with me. Which is cool and I love Facebook for that. It matters how they facilitate the community because that’s the responsibility Facebook took upon itself and it isn’t to be treated lightly. It matters because FB is selling my attention to advertisers that pay high prices to get their brand in front of me and in front of you; Facebook is not as free as some would like to believe. You DO pay a price to be there and YOU are the commodity FB sells to advertisers. It matters because these are people we are talking about, not some random images. When my photo is removed I am confident enough that it doesn’t rattle me. Additionally, I have a platform to voice my concerns and put some pressure on FB regarding their responsibility to their users. But what about the mom that shares an image celebrating her breastfeeding, her family, her children, and Facebook removes it and she does get rattled? It could cause her to call into question if what she is doing is somehow wrong. That if images of breastfeeding are inappropriate and not fit for her community to see, is it inappropriate for her child to breastfeed? If she’s struggling and looking for her community for support but these images aren’t permitted, how is she going to work out that there can be a wide variety of normal in breastfeeding baby’s latches or any other variety of breastfeeding related questions? How is she going to know that she’s not alone with how her little one behaves at the breast? How else are moms going to get over the emphasis on the sexual nature of female breasts to just feed her baby when her very community shames and harasses her for sharing these images? The message that is being sent is that you can have community, you can be marketed to within that community, but your personal experience with breastfeeding is shameful and not welcome in the community. Which ultimately means the breastfeeding mother is not welcome in the community.
The ones that need to receive an unwelcoming response are those reporting these images. People need to stop reporting these images but that’s not going to cease until Facebook is willing to actually enforce consequences for false reporting of images that actually do adhere to FB’s community standards and these consequences need to be at least as severe and shaming as those whose images are deleted have experienced. That’s how change is going to take place and that responsibility lies with Facebook.
Facebook, figure it out. Take a stand. Grow up and put your actions where your money and your mouth is.
Facebook, unwaveringly welcome breastfeeding moms into the community.
You can find more information about the issues with Facebook and breastfeeding including how they police content and respond to reports, attempts at communicating with Facebook regarding this issue, and any new developments here.