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Facebook Rejects Images Of Woman’s Bare Back, Just One Of Many Examples Of Apparent Censorship

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor

An author tried to purchase ads on Facebook depicting a woman showing her bare back, but the tech company ultimately removed it citing its policies against sponsored content “with a sexual undertone,” The New York Times reported Thursday.

Krista Venero, who writes under the pen name K.L. Montgomery, wanted to market her new romance novel “Fat Girl,” but was faced with the fairly strict, and often unequally applied, Facebook rules. The uncovered spine shown on her sponsored social media post was not very different from, for example, an advertisement from a cosmetic company like Olay, as NYT notes.

Facebook eventually admitted that it was wrong, but not after Venero had to struggle for some time to explain why. The situation epitomizes a constant battle between brands, businesses, organizations, independent entrepreneurs and the tech giant, as Facebook’s algorithms and human review teams attempt to analyze millions of ads any given week.

Facebook’s efforts to tidy up its platform by preventing or cleansing certain content aren’t just directed at sponsored posts, as all content could technically be on the chopping block.

Venero now feels forced to make her ads “extremely conservative,” she told The New York Times, even though writing romantic novels isn’t typically compatible with prudery.

“They usually just have a man and woman’s face on them,” she continued. “I do have one that has a man’s chest, and I’ve never had any problems with it. But a woman’s shoulder — we have a problem.”

The Swedish Cancer Society, an independent nonprofit, decided to change an instructional breast examination video by making the boobs square-shaped after Facebook censored its content.

Facebook apparently felt that viewing animated breasts in circular form was too much for the internet community to handle. Content like “nudity or other sexually suggestive content” is not allowed on the social media website, according to Facebook’s Help Center.

Monet Moutrie, a photographer focused on human birth, said somewhat recently that Facebook removed an extremely popular video showing mothers’ first encounters with their respective children, as well as her personal account.

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The video, which racked up more than 100 million views, was uploaded seven months before it was ultimately taken down with no notice, according to Moutrie.

Facebook enumerates its litany of policies, which it partially describes as “encouraging respectful behavior.” It states that it restricts “the display of nudity and sexual activity because some audiences within our global community may be sensitive to this type of content — particularly because of their cultural background or age.”

Examples of censorship — some more clearly undue, and some mysterious and inconclusive — are aplenty.

In an exclusive story from The Daily Caller News Foundation, libertarian nonprofit The Atlas Society says its page on Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) was removed with little to no explanation. Instagram refutes that it took down the account itself, and operators of the group claim that it sure smells of censorship.

Facebook also fully removed a small town business’s advertising capabilities on the platform late in 2017. The Sportsman’s Shop of East Earl, Pa., tried to advertise products like American flags, but was told by the tech giant that it couldn’t essentially because it also happens to sell guns.

“Facebook owes the public a higher duty not to discriminate against free speech especially when that censorship stifles the exercise of a fundamental protected right enshrined in the Constitution,” Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the firearms and related industries, told TheDCNF.

The people involved in the latter two situations complained of bias due to an ostensible difference in ideology between them and Facebook. For Venero — as well as the Swedish Cancer Society and Moutrie — it appears that censorship, or content restrictions, transcend any considerations of partiality, and exhibit a rigid and stern rules of conduct.

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