The advisory board for Meta has informed Facebook and Instagram that they need to reverse their policy of censorship of bare breasts on the platforms. Previously, what were perceived to be female nipples were automatically banned by the social media apps.
The advisory board, however, responded by saying that the policy impedes the right to expression for women, trans and nonbinary people.
The decision was made on January 17th, 2023 by the board, which is comprised of a mix of academics, politicians, and journalists. The board is responsible for advising on moderation policies. They recommended that Meta change its adult nudity and sexual activity community standard “so that it is governed by clear criteria that respect international human rights standards”.
The “Free the Nipple” campaign began in 2012 after many photographers and artists came foul of the draconian policies held by Facebook and Instagram. Performance artist and activist Emma Shapiro explains in Feminist Zine exactly why it’s important to challenge these policies.
So-called Community Guidelines have for decades maintained that the nude body belongs to either sexual activity or art made long ago by men. The consideration of the “female nipple” as sexual in nature relegates its exposure to indecency, regardless of the fact that all bodies have nipples
– Emma Shapiro for Feminist Zine
Shapiro has found her Instagram accounts censored multiple times for nudity, even having the accounts shut down on occasion. Her work is completely non-sexual in nature but does include self-portraiture that happens to sometimes show her own nipples. It does not merely impact artists, but also health care activists, cancer survivors, breastfeeding specialists and advocates, and of course, both the LGBTQ community and women in general.
Shapiro commented quite fittingly on Instagram that “celebration is warranted BUT these are just words. Meta has 60 days to respond to the recommendations, and they could simply say no.” So, in other words, although this has been recommended by the advisory board, there is no legal obligation to comply.
It’s been reported that female-presenting bodies are twice as likely to be censored as male-presenting bodies, purely down to society’s sexualization of a body part designed to feed babies. Just last year, female photographer Renee Jacobs had her exhibition censored in Barcelona due to too much female nudity. Helmut Newton’s work that showed the naked female form in an exhibition alongside Jacob’s was apparently just fine.
It is exactly because of this confusing double standard and hypocrisy that such an overhaul of policies will be welcomed, if Meta decides to take action, that is. We shall know in 60 days.