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Xtra cover too sexy for Facebook


Xtra cover too sexy for Facebook

Website censors image to 'protect' children

Facebook hit 150 million registered users on Jan 7, and the site's founder boasts that if the social network were a country, it would surpass Japan, Russia and Nigeria in population.

But if Facebook Nation really existed, it would be a prudish state of the worst kind.

Censors at the popular site have removed the cover image of the Sep 11, 2008 issue of Xtra, with only a vague explanation: Facebook was trying to "protect" children from viewing the image.

Julia Garro is the associate editor of the Toronto gay and lesbian newspaper. She uploads each issue's cover image to the Friends of Xtra Facebook group.

But this week, she received a message from Facebook, warning her that one image had been deleted from the Friends of Xtra group:

"Facebook does not allow photos that attack an individual or group, or that contain nudity, drug use, violence, or other violations of the Terms of Use. These policies are designed to ensure Facebook remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for all users, including the many children who use the site."

Facebook declined to answer Xtra.ca's repeated attempts for an interview, so we are unable to clarify how the sight of naked breasts might create an "unsafe" environment for youth.

A look into Facebook's Help Center reveals that the company reviews all items flagged by its users.

"Any content that is considered obscene, violent, malicious or otherwise offensive will be removed," says Facebook. "If you received a warning about an item that was taken down, then we have established that it violated these terms."

Clearly, the breasts in question are neither violent nor malicious. One could assume that Facebook decided that the image is obscene or offensive — but under what criteria? Facebook won't say.

But even in cases in which a nude image is clearly not obscene, violent, malicious or offensive, Facebook has taken a hardline approach.

The social-networking site recently came under fire for deleting pictures of women breastfeeding their children. Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt told the New York Times that the company has no plans to change their strict no-nudity policy.

"Certainly we can agree that there is context where nudity is not obscene, but we are reviewing thousands of complaints a day," he says. "Whether it's obscene, art or a natural act — we'd rather just leave it at nudity and draw the line there."

But in these tough economic times and given that Facebook isn't great at generating revenue, here's an idea: lay off the army of censors and save some money.

Censoring the expression of sexuality in the name of "protecting" youth suggests that a child could be harmed by simply viewing an "offensive" image. But exactly what harm could come from viewing that cover of Xtra? What is Facebook so afraid of?

"Think of the children!" is a logical fallacy that appeals to emotions and the falsehood that children are so innocent that they need constant sheltering from reality. It's an argument often used when someone thinks something is "icky" or "immoral," but they're unable to rationalize why it makes them feel that way.

The Xtra cover might cause youth to think about sex in an open way. And that idea would likely scare the pants off any social conservative who thinks sex is something that should be saved for marriage.

Worse yet, there's no transparency in Facebook's decision-making process. Facebook typically refuses to elaborate or engage in discussion after it censors an image.

If Facebook actually were a country, I'd be itching to leave (but not to the Republic of Myspace — I hear they're keen on censorship, as well).



Breastfeeding moms

What happened: Several women noticed that photos of themselves breastfeeding their children had been flagged for removal.

Facebook's response: Facebook says it has a strict no-nudity policy. "Whether it's obscene, art or a natural act — we'd rather just leave it at nudity and draw the line there," spokesman Barry Schnitt told the New York Times.

Outcome: Over 150,000 breastfeeding moms and supporters have joined the Hey Facebook! Breastfeeding is not obscene group. Facebook refuses to budge on its prudish policy.



Hot gay guys in designer underwear

What happened: Facebook removed two pages set up by the gay men's retailer Priape. Priape sells a variety of clothing, sex toys and porn. Michael Ain, Priape's director of marketing and sales, says Facebook is treating Priape differently than it does similar pages aimed at heterosexual audiences. He says there were no pornographic or explicit images on Priape's Facebook pages.

Facebook's response: Facebook refused to return Xtra's calls for an explanation. An explanation Facebook emailed to Priape does not provide clear grounds: "The content on the Page you created is prohibited. We do not currently allow content referencing, facilitating or promoting adult toys, videos or other adult products. Unfortunately we cannot reinstate this Page and ask that you do not recreate this page in the future."

Outcome: Despite Facebook's warning, Priape is back at it with a new group, Priapewear.

Anyone with the last name Gay

What happened: In 2007, bloggers were buzzing because Facebook blocked anyone from registering with the lastname "Gay." A message would appear on the screen: "Please enter a legitimate name."

Facebook's response: Apparently, Facebook was trying to stop homophobes from creating "offensive" and "obscene" profiles. But tell that to Duncan Gay, a New Zealand politician.

Outcome: Xtra.ca tried registering an account for Mike Gay and Duncan Gay, but we still had no luck. Facebook displayed the following message: "Our automated system will not approve this name. If you believe this is an error, please contact us."

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Just a breast? Really?
Maybe my eyes are deceiving me (I've only seen the very small image of that cover), but it seems to me there's more than a couple of naked breasts, there. The guy on the bottom (at least I think it's a guy) is, apparently, engaged in a full-on sex act. Portrayals of breastfeeding are one thing; explicit sex is kind of another, no?
disgusted, censorship my ass
I have no problem with gay, trans gendered, or any other consenting adult relationships, lifestyles or labels.

What I do have a problem with is the overly sexual photos on facebook coupled with facebook dubbing photos of breast feeding disgusting and removing them.

So.. sex and sexuality is ok, facebook can show that but feeding a child in the most natural, least harmful to the environment is disgusting and obscene??

I do agree that this photo should NOT be posted on facebbook. It is over the top , basically porn and inappropriate for the venue.

What is nudity anyway? How much leg or breast showing is too much?
Terms of Use
It is their site. You agree to their terms of use. They own the servers. Nothing guarantees you the right to post your material on their site. Facebook is a global community that is catering to the cultural norms and taboos of more than Canada. They are within their rights to remove material from their servers.

Of course you have freedom of expression and can buy your own server, and host any image you want. The fact of the matter is this is their site that they let people use. Just as no one can force you to publish something you do not want in your paper or site, they can choose not to publish your material.
Trying for a story?
Who cares. Get over it.
good video
150 million?
150 million profiles maybe, but certainly not 150 million individual people. Do a search for any celebrity and see how many identical matches you get. And if Facebook is so great what's stopping the entire world signing up tomorrow?
C'mon guys...
C'mon guys! Although I know the GLBT community should be at the forefront of championing right to free expression and pushing social boundaries, let's not stretch it to feigned indignation at Facebook's removal of this particular image. As a promo tool targetting a free thinking, liberated audience - it rocks! Doesn't mean its an image I would show my kids while reading them bedtime stories. And lets face it - I'd say a majority of those 150 million Facebook users are under-aged. And while I appreciate interacial/multiple party/cunnilingus/fellatio/Gay/Lesbian Bisexual imagery as much as the next guy, it may be a bit much for the average 14 year old who isn't even getting sex-ed nowadays. At least for those kids without a good high speed IP or late night cable...
Vague explanations for profile deletions
When the Kids on TV (a queer band from Toronto) had our profile page deleted from Myspace in early 2007, they never provided us with an explanation. My theory is that any explanation provided can be cited in litigation so lawyers always tell content management systems (e.g. Myspace or Facebook) not to provide anything but the original terms of service with it's rules & regulations (or something suitably vague).

And yet they always want to have it both ways (charges of censorship are marketing disasters for these people). When Tom (the founder of Myspace) was in Toronto Eye Magazine asked him why we were deleted. He had heard about it amazingly but gave them a stock denial that our page was ever deleted.

My recommendation is always to beat these goliaths up in the media (easy to do in this case because XTRA is the media :-). We did with myspace and got our page re-instated. After several interviews in print-media magazines & blogs about it they begged us to stop & we got an apology from Myspace Europe (but never from Tom).

Even though content management systems are wholly owned companies, the larger community regards them as a sort of commons - since they are nothing without the content provided by (in this case) the gay community. This is a new formation and worth exploring in discussion further. Legally they can delete your content or profile, but their moral right is not at all clear. The larger community (often the very community they claim to protect) is much more outraged by the act of censorship than they are about the content that gets censored. Apparently censorship isn't a community value.
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