Over a decade since #FreeTheNipple took over the world (and the internet), we're now one step closer to freedom of expression on Facebook and Instagram. Meta's oversight board has called for the company to overhaul their ban on images of bare-chested women.
Prior to this, Facebook's rules state that photos of nipples are only acceptable "in the context of breastfeeding, birth giving and after-birth moments, health (for example, post-mastectomy, breast cancer awareness, or gender reassignment surgery), or an act of protest." As for Instagram, they only allow "photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed." Nudity in paintings and sculptures is okay too.
In a decision made on January 17, the oversight board reexamined Meta's nudity policies following the decision to remove two Instagram posts featuring trans and non-binary people with bare chests. Their removal was overturned and the board recommended that Meta changes their Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity Community Standard to "respect international human rights standards."
The original posts reportedly showed a transgender and non-binary couple bare-chested with their nipples covered. The captions discussed transgender healthcare and said that one of them will be undergoing top surgery. Due to the fundraising link and the depiction of breasts, Meta removed the posts for violating its Sexual Solicitation Community Standard.
Among the key findings in the oversight board's investigation, they found that the rules are "based on a binary view of gender and a distinction between male and female bodies. Such an approach makes it unclear how the rules apply to intersex, non-binary and transgender people, and requires reviewers to make rapid and subjective assessments of sex and gender, which is not practical when moderating content at scale." Likewise, the exceptions made for breastfeeding, health and protest was called "convoluted and poorly defined." The automated system used for Meta's content moderation sometimes flags things that do not violate the nudity terms.
The oversight board also acknowledges the impacts that the ban has for people from cultures that traditionally go bare-chested as well as LGBTQ+ individuals.
Among the recommendations made to Meta, the board asks for a clearer criteria for its community standards on nudity so that everyone is treated fairly and without discrimination of gender and sex. It was also recommended that the Sexual Solicitation Community Standard be made clearer and educate moderators to reduce reinforcement errors.
Los Angeles-based artist Micol Hebron went viral for creating stickers of male nipples for female Instagram users to stick over their nipples, thereby deeming their photos as within community guidelines. In an interview with The Guardian, Hebron recalled visiting Meta headquarters to discuss the company's stance on nipples. "During that meeting, we learned that there were no transgender people on the content moderation policy team, and I also observed that there were no gender-neutral bathrooms there,” Hebron said. “To me, that was all I needed to know to understand the conversation of gender and inclusivity was not being had at Meta."
Meta has 60 days to respond to the oversight board's recommendations.
You still have to cover the goodies, but thankfully it seems that it won't be like that much longer.
Photo courtesy of Alexandra Popova/Shutterstock