Facebook’s War on Nipples

BFB FB baby censorshipI originally posted this in 2012, but although Facebook has lightened up on its censorship policies since then, their censorship of breastfeeding photos still crops up way too often, so I’m sharing it again after a little editing to reflect how Facebook’s  policies have changed since I wrote this 3 year ago.

This article explains Facebook’s new policy on breastfeeding photos as of 2015: 
Facebook Clarifies Nudity Policy: Breastfeeding Photos Are Allowed (As Long As You Can’t See Any Nipples)

BREAST-CANCER-TATTOO-FACEBOOK-570“We remove photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks. We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring. We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures and other art that depicts nude figures.” So, no more banning 17th century art, or pictures like this (which got over 120,000 shares in spite of the fact that Facebook removed it multiple times.)

Facebook ‘Removes Image Of Breast Cancer Survivor’s Double Mastectomy Tattoo Over Nudity Violation’

So now, three years later, Facebook is at it once again. Yesterday a mom posted this picture on Facebook on the page Mommy2Mommy. It shows that the hypocrisy continues three years later, so the fight isn’t won yet.

This is the text that was posted along with the photo:

BFB Censorship pumping 2015Hey FB!!!Tell me why the photo to the left is ok but not the photo to the right???? I just noticed my breast-pumping post from early this afternoon with over 400 likes and 30 comments was deleted by FB. FB wants me to share about my life. Well this is my life right now. So here’s another “f*ck-it” #normalizebreastfeeding #breastfeedingmomsaresexytoo #thiscountryhasgotitbackwards #deletemyaccountifyouwant #heckimightdoitmyself

The post was only up for a few hours, but it that short time, it generated almost  1,000 comments, nearly all supportive. But within a few hours of re-posting, it was removed again. We’re not sure if the group administrator decided to delete it because someone reported it to Facebook, or whether she thought it was offensive and just took it down. Twice. Either way, it’s really messed up and the hipocrasy is mind boggling.

BFB Blog nursing dollFacebook has taken this to ridiculous lengths. Even though they later issued an apology, they actually deleted photos of little girls play nursing their baby dolls. 

Here’s something really freaking hilarious. Facebook disabled this account because of this photo of a woman in a bath tub: Facebook Bans Image of Woman In Bathtub-But Have They Just Mistaken Her Elbows For Nipples?

BFB FB Nipples BathtubI couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

So here’s my original blog from 2012:

I’m writing (Okay, more like ‘ranting’ ) this post so that I can explain why Facebook keeps disabling my account because they have repeatedly indicated that some of the posts on my Breastfeeding Basics page were ‘obscene’. Here’s the picture they got their panties in a wad about this time. It’s a real photograph of a real and very beautiful woman, and I have a feeling that Mark Z. would be shared shitless to tell her to go nurse her baby in a bathroom.

BFB Blog banned pic AfricaOnce upon a time, in the year 2010, I had a kickass Breastfeeding Basics Facebook page, with thousands of fans.

Unfortunately, I lost it after just a few months because Facebook kept disabling my account over and over and banning me for various lengths of time (ranging from hours to weeks) until they finally deleted (or as they like to say) “permanently disabled” it. They said that it violated their TOS by showing “nudity and inappropriate content.” Apparently, Facebook doesn’t like breastfeeding, and they find the very idea of a mother nursing her baby ‘inappropriate’. I say this because many of the nursing pix they delete don’t really show any uncovered breasts. They do, however, seem to have a huge problem with nipples.

BFB Facebooks war on nipples poster

The Breastfeeding Basics Facebook page contained pictures of breastfeeding women, and every effort was made show these pictures in the context of answering medical questions related to lactation. There was no prurient intent or pictures that could in any sense be considered pornographic. In a few months, I distributed a lot of medical information, as well as links to parenting/breastfeeding articles and quotes, funny memes, etc. – all related to parenting or breastfeeding, and not in any way intended to violate Facebook’s Terms of Service.

My first warning came right after I started the original Breastfeeding Basics page. A nursing mom asked me what an engorged breast looked like, and I posted a photo.  It was definitely graphic, but hardly sexually provocative. In fact, it looks so painful that I cringe whenever I look at it. This mother was was ready to give up on breastfeeding before she even started. She was so engorged that she pumped out more than a quart of milk (that’s 32 ounces). Once she emptied her breasts, the baby latched on and there was no looking back.

In their TOS (Terms of Service) Facebook claimed that  “We have long allowed … educational and scientific photos of the human body and photos of women breastfeeding.” I was under the mistaken impression that Facebook would differentiate between ‘pornographic’ and ‘educational’ posts, and was naive enough to believe that they would abide by their own guidelines – but no.
EngorgementFacebook informed me that they had deleted an offensive photo (didn’t tell me which one) that violated their Terms of Service, and warned me that if I posted another ‘obscene’ pic, they might disable or delete my account. The picture of the engorged breast was missing, so I assumed that was the offensive one, and I was okay with that, because after all, it did show a breast. I totally got it. Breasts on Facebook were not okay.

What I had a problem with was that Facebook disabled my account anyway, after I followed their instructions and removed the picture, and they didn’t tell me how long the suspension would last.

No one at Facebook ever responded to my polite inquiries re reinstatement of my account. I went through all the right channels, explained the situation, and pointed out the fact that I was a health professional trying to provide information and support to nursing mothers. I groveled and begged and apologized for inadvertently violating their Terms of Service, and assured them that I would be careful in the future to not post any material that might be considered offensive. I went through my photo collection and took down any picture that showed even a sliver of nipple or areola.  As silly as it seemed, I edited some photos so that the nipple was blurred out, since Facebook seemed to be okay with breasts, but nipples were taboo.

Facebook ‘allowed’ me to keep my page up for a few more weeks before they sent me another warning. This time, they showed me the pic that they said violated their Terms of Service. They gave me the option of deleting the photo, and told me that if I didn’t, I ran the risk of having my account disabled or deleted. I took down the ‘offensive’ pix immediately, but Facebook disabled my account anyway. Again.

This was the one they had a problem with that I removed immediately as soon as I got the notice from Facebook:

BFB baby looking up at momFast forward another month. This time, Facebook deleted my entire account, without warning. I woke up one morning and it was all gone. I lost the Breastfeeding Basics page, which if I do say so myself, was awesome. I had thousands of likes, and really enjoyed connecting with the moms who ‘liked’ my page. I not only lost my Breastfeeding Basics page, but my personal account as well, with all my friends and family contacts, and all my photo albums with pictures of my children. They also disabled my non-profit animal rescue page. All my accounts were suddenly and permanently disabled, and I can never get them back.

This is the photo that Facebook finally considered so terribly ‘offensive’, ‘inappropriate’, or ‘obscene’, that they took the drastic step of  permanently disabling my entire account: BFB Me Pregnant BF
Seriously, I really did try to be careful, but I knew that if Facebook would go after me for the twenty-four year old picture of me nursing my two year old, they would get me for something eventually. Obviously, they were not abiding by their Terms of Service, because in the pic, which has been on the Breastfeeding Basics website article “Nursing During Pregnancy and Tandem Nursing” for over 13 years, I was wearing a sweater (a really tacky one from 1990) and there was absolutely no breast or nipple showing. You really wouldn’t know I was nursing unless you read the caption. It looks like a rather portly woman holding a toddler in her lap.

Facebook has the power to delete any picture or comment that someone finds offensive, and they don’t have to tell you why. They don’t have a customer service department, and don’t give a damn about giving you the opportunity to defend yourself or politely request that they consider restoring your account. They don’t have to tell you how long they’re going to disable your account, or when or if they’re going to let you have access to it again. They are judge, jury, and executioner all in one. At least now they tell you what picture they found obscene, or that someone objected to for whatever reason. For example, a few months ago, for absolutely no reason, Facebook blocked my account because of this puppy picture on my animal rescue page. I’ve looked and looked, but still don’t see any nipples, even puppy ones.

FB Puppy Banned
REALLY, Facebook? Instead of picking on pages with babies and puppies, why don’t you pick on somebody doing really bad stuff, like, hmm…maybe the pages with hard core porn, links to sex sites, and groups that encourage cruelty, sadism, hatred, and bigotry? And believe me, regardless of what they says about their Terms of Service, there is plenty of that stuff out there, and it’s easy to find. For example, this image is fine…

FB Boobs with guns bf blog

And so is this one…

BFB Photos of Boobs

And apparently Facebook has no problem with this one either, which is offensive on SO many levels…


Big boobs fat girl

However, the good folks at Facebook feel the need to remove photos like this….

And this…BFB Blog photo black mother

I refuse to let the breast busters or the areola police win this one without putting up a fight, especially since all you (or any ten year old boy) have to do is go on Facebook and search for “Boobs”, “Fun Bags”, “Big Tits”, “Enormous Boobs”, “Gigantic Knockers”…and so on, and you’ll find some stuff that is TRULY obscene and graphic. In fact, some of it is downright disturbing, so make sure the kids aren’t in the room  when you do the search.

If I had young kids, I wouldn’t let them near a computer, and certainly not Facebook. My grand children are growing up in a very scary world. Something is very twisted when beautiful, empowering pictures of women, birth, and breastfeeding are deemed ‘sexually inappropriate’, while this internet porn is just A-OK.

It’s not just the fact that Facebook has a strict ‘no nudity’, or even ‘no nipple’ policy. I could understand that. I wouldn’t agree with it as it applies to breastfeeding, but Facebook is a free service (not really, because of data mining – they sell your information for big bucks to advertisers who want to post targeted ads on your page, but that’s a whole different topic), and I really couldn’t complain too much it they were consistent…but they aren’t. It’s their blatant in your face hypocrisy that I have a problem with.

So…After the complete deletion of my account a couple of years ago, I decided to try setting up a Breastfeeding Basics page again.  Facebook frowns upon setting up more than one account, but under the circumstances, I felt that I didn’t have a choice, so shhhh…don’t tell them what I did. Lets just say that it involved submitting my driver’s license photo and birth certificate and the blood of my first born son and leave it at that.

Once again, within a few weeks of setting up the new Breastfeeding Basics page, Facebook has disabled my account. This time they say it will be for 30 days, but based on past experience, there is no guarantee that they will reinstate it after my arbitrary punishment time is up.

After this most recent attack on breastfeeding photos, I have come to the conclusion that if I have a Facebook page, I not only can’t post pictures of women’s breasts, even in the context of showing the difference between breast cancer and mastitis, but I can’t even post a picture of me with a baby in my lap, apparently because someone out there doesn’t like the IDEA of a woman nursing a toddler, especially if she’s pregnant.

As an IBCLC and health professional, I am being denied the opportunity to inform and educate breastfeeding moms via Facebook. I can’t post pix of what IBC (Inflammatory Breast Cancer) looks like, compared to mastitis, in spite of the fact that it might save the life of one of the millions of women who get breastfeeding information on Facebook.

IBC and Mastitis
IBC                                     Mastitis

The fight against Facebook’s policy of deleting breastfeeding photos has been going on for years. Unfortunately, Facebook continues to harass breastfeeding moms, deleting photos of them nursing their babies and disabling their accounts.

Nursing mothers are fed up and fighting back. If you support a mother’s right to breastfeed her baby any time, any place, for any reason, here are some ways to fight back. Photos of breastfeeding continue to be removed by Facebook on a daily basis. Action is needed now!

Here are some ways you can help end the madness:

• Visit Jodine Chase’s wonderful blog. She’s a passionate advocate for nursing moms, and has covered the topic of Facebook’s censorship policies in depth: http://jodinesworld.blogspot.com/

• Stop by and “like” the Facebook page FB vs Breastfeeding.

Share, share, share! Already there have been hundreds of news items, blog posts, YouTube videos, Instagram posts, and tweets.  Take posts from the FB vs Breastfeeding page and share them on Facebook and Twitter. Add your voice to the comments on blog posts and other positive coverage. Every time you share you help to normalize breastfeeding and show that nursing is the best, most natural way to nourish and nurture our little ones.

• Make the point clear: Facebook must stop harassing, bullying, and intimidating breastfeeding women. Offers of apology and tweaks to their policy are not enough – they must take action and STOP deleting photos and taking down accounts. Every day women are finding photos removed, accounts frozen, and in my case, completely deleted, never to be restored.

• Join The Badass Breastfeeder, whose page now has over 140,000 likes (in 2005, three  years after I originally posted this blog, the number has grown to over 200,000 likes) and is still growing strong (apparently there are a lot of Badass Mamas out there!) and Unlatched on Facebook to support empowering women to NIP and share their beautiful breastfeeding photos.

• Tell everyone you know to share – use the power of social media to amplify our message! Keep the pressure on and show Facebook how important this issue is to you. More needs to be done and this group is committed to applying continued pressure. Please take a moment to sign: Petition to Facebook to amend its breastfeeding photo guidelines

• Stop by and like my new and improved Breastfeeding Basics Facebook page – that is, if Facebook hasn’t blocked it again.

Fortunately, Facebook can’t do a damn thing about what I post on my website, so I can talk about their censorship policies without wondering about what they might do to punish me. Let Facebook know that you’re not gonna take it anymore. You can make a difference.

Anne Smith, a very pissed off IBCLC
Breastfeeding Basics

About Anne Smith, IBCLC

Anne Smith, IBCLC
As the mother of six wonderful breastfed children, three perfect breastfed grand babies, and an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) with over twenty-five years experience in lactation counseling, I can offer you professional support, as well as information and advice based on my personal experiences over the years.

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