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Facebook Nudity Policy Draws Nursing Moms' Ire 904

Posted by timothy
from the isn't-breastfeeding-for-the-children-too? dept.
HSRD writes "Web-savvy moms who breast-feed are irate that social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace restrict photos of nursing babies. The disputes reveal how the sites' community policing techniques sometimes struggle to keep up with the booming number and diversity of their members."
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Facebook Nudity Policy Draws Nursing Moms' Ire

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  • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Thursday January 01, 2009 @05:28PM (#26293379) Homepage Journal
    Legally, female chestal nudity is defined as showing of the nipple and/or the areola.

    That is unfair because areolae come in different shapes and sizes. A woman with the nicest nips and smallest, densest areolae wouldn't break this rule because the baby's mouth would nom-nom-nom both the nipple and the areola, obscuring them from the sight of observers in which case the nudity rule wouldn't be broken.

    More unfortunate would be the women with really puffy areaolae or the ones with the really big, stretched-out pancake areaolae. There would be no hiding then no matter how big or hungry their baby may be. The puffy areaolae would push the baby's head further away from the teet, increasing the likelihood of passers-by seeing the defiant areola or even the nipple. Big silver-dollar areolae require no explanation as they would be impossible to hide unless the baby is hydrocephalic.

    Just my 2 cents as I am not a lawyer, but I hope that more and more brave women step up to fight these sexist, unjust laws.
  • by ojintoad (1310811) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @05:35PM (#26293437)
    RTFA:

    A member for almost four years, [Heather] Farley has nearly 400 friends on Facebook, a network she'd be hard-pressed to replicate if she moved to a smaller site with more lenient photo policies.

    The problem is simple - Facebook has a black and white policy for censorship, when censorship is a gray area. That's why you have various ratings for movies and video games. The article hints at changing culture to accept the pictures. There is a technological/social solution besides forcing acceptance - a rating system for objectionableness and the ability for an individual user to set what level of objectionableness they are willing to tolerate. The article offers another solution at the end:

    Palfrey suggests a middle ground might emerge, in which networking sites like Facebook can better satisfy diverse constituencies without creating strife. That will require honing the technology to make it more certain that only people within specific networks and groups could see, say, a breast-feeding photo, while keeping children from seeing nudity.

  • Re:Why is this news? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @05:51PM (#26293573) Homepage Journal

    I was going to predict that some conformist submissive would repeat the trite refrain "their website, their rules" to whore karma, but damn it, you beat me to it.

    You know the great thing about individual sovereignty? People can ignore those rules. And they did. And Facebook knows they'd better not piss them off again, because they need mothers' eyeballs more than mothers need Facebook.

  • Re:Why is this news? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Firehed (942385) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @05:52PM (#26293589) Homepage

    It's not content being provided to the public. It's content being provided to their private network, which you have the option of joining at no cost.

    Some social networks opt to have no policing whatsoever, but when push comes to shove, they'll still typically cave in the event of some sort of takedown notice even if they're believed to be in the legal clear (for the reasons you provide). That said, I haven't heard of anyone going to court over it, but I'm pretty sure that the courts would side with the copyright holder if it ever came up.

  • by ojintoad (1310811) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @05:55PM (#26293617)
    I didn't say they didn't have the right to ban things. I said that a problem with that policy is it doesn't take into account gray areas, such non-offensive nudity, which for a lot of people includes breast exposed during nursing. What happens if I want my Facebook photo to be Venus De Milo [sailingissues.com]?
  • by cbiltcliffe (186293) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @06:00PM (#26293651) Homepage Journal

    Actually, they might not.

    There was a real flap in my hometown a couple of weeks before Christmas where a mother was breastfeeding in a restaurant, and the waitress asked her to stop. When the mother refused, the waitress got ugly, had her manager come out, and even called the police. The police said the restaurant had the right to ask her to stop, and that the mother was in the wrong.

    The thing is, it's legal to breastfeed anywhere that you're legally allowed to be while not breastfeeding, and noone has the right to ask you to stop, or to ask you to leave solely on the fact that you're breastfeeding.

    Now there's a lawsuit against the restaurant, and the city police department, who had no clue about the laws they're supposed to be enforcing.

    Would laws like this regarding breastfeeding translate into the online world? Depends on how they were written, but I know the one in this case says you're not allowed to ask a breastfeeding mother to "cover up." Does removing a photo of breastfeeding constitute asking her to cover up? It might.

    Of course, with MySpace, we're talking about the US here, where babies are legally required to close their eyes while breastfeeding, because seeing the nipple during feeding would irreparably harm the child's fragile brain.....

  • Re:Why is this news? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Compholio (770966) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @06:01PM (#26293653)

    It's not content being provided to the public. It's content being provided to their private network, which you have the option of joining at no cost.

    I would have agreed with you not that long ago, but once they introduced the "public profile" concept I'd say that avenue of protection went out the window. Now that the content is no-longer only shared within the private network I would venture to guess that when the issue arises that FB (and others) will be held liable for the content that they fail to filter.

  • Re:Reality Check (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @06:06PM (#26293705)

    By the same token, they could have any privacy policy and TOS they want, too, but you can bet there would be a huge uproar here if they did things nerds thought was unethical. To me, both cases are just as interesting. (That is to say, not.)

  • Re:Why is this news? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jonfr (888673) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @06:20PM (#26293837) Homepage

    This is the general idea from the neo-con agenda. The fact is, even if you own something (specially a company place, that might be considered a public place) you might not have all the right on your side.

    There is a difference between public and private. When people mix those two up, bad things happen. Like censorship, stupid rules and more.

  • My experience... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Landshark17 (807664) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @06:24PM (#26293879)
    For a while I was posting photography work I had done to Facebook. About the time I started working with nude models, I decided it was time to move my collection somewhere else rather than have the art vs. porn fight. It was at that time I also looked closely at the fine print of the terms of service and realized that by posting pictures I had been giving Facebook the unrestricted right to reproduce my pictures without payment or permission.

    So I started putting my pictures up on a website whose owner I knew wouldn't care I was taking snaps of naked women: My dad.
  • by Swizec (978239) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @06:30PM (#26293939) Homepage
    And yet sex is an intimate act between two individuals just because certain religions and cultures have deemed it so. It used to be just about procreation and there was zero emotion or intimacy attached, do you see monkeys having trouble with sexual acts in public? No, because it's a normal act of furthering the species.

    Next argument please.
  • by WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) <sexwithanimals@gmail.com> on Thursday January 01, 2009 @06:35PM (#26293989) Homepage
    Breast feeding isn't an intimate act? Do you know that the chemicals released in the brain during breast feeding are what help bond mother and baby? That those same chemicals are used by con artists to get people to be more trusting?
  • by Sique (173459) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @06:51PM (#26294119) Homepage

    And those chemicals are exactly those that also create the bonding during the sexual intercourse.

    From a hormonal point of view breast-feeding and sexual intercourse are pretty similar.

  • by PsychoElf (571371) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @06:54PM (#26294153)
    FYI...breast pumps usually damage a woman's milk ducts (leaky teats). That is a reason why some mother's only breast feed.
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @06:59PM (#26294185) Homepage

    What you aren't seeing is that the issue is a very sensitive contextual one.

    First off, do you want the site to be swarmed by 12-year-old boys that find the pictures titilating? OK, throw that out - who cares, right?

    Now you have someone that claims their picture just shows breastfeeding when clearly that is not the intent of the picture. How sensitive contextually should the policy be? And who is the final judge in this?

    The problem for a large public site is not that they have to be overly repressive. It is that they must have a clearly defined and easily implemented policy. Failure to do so means everybody loses because it is impossible to say what is allowed and what is not. At that point censorship is either non-existant or is arbitrary. I assure you that without some control Facebook would become a cesspool. So the control has to be something that everyone understands and can be implemented without a great deal of context.

    So how does the two adults showing "breastfeeding" get handled? How about the completely nude woman with a baby on one breast? There are a million examples like this of "pushing the envelope" that someone somewhere has to deal with. Quickly and without a lot of contextual judgement.

  • by MSgirl (1359011) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @07:04PM (#26294239)
    I am a woman and I'm not interested in seeing somebody's naked boob. Is this naked boob just on a page where anyone can accidently stumble upon it or do you need a password? If it's just out there then I agree with Facebook & MySpace removing it. Otherwise, if you have to use a password and log in to a certain pre-authorized group then it's probably OK.
  • by Kibblet (754565) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @07:07PM (#26294269) Homepage
    Facebook is filled with networks of mothers. A lot of ads cater to them. They make money off of mothers. I cannot believe the number of ignorant comments to this thread -- more so than the average slashdot thread. But then, this is one where women would understand more than men, and parents more than people who are childfree. Still, I'd expect at least a few more enlightened people who understand basic human biology, laws pertaining to breastfeeding, the amount of women (especially mothers) who are are the internet, and other things outside the little slashdot world. I was wrong. I'm used to diversity, I guess. I suggest the mothers contact the people who are paying facebook to reach us. Why should we buy products from companies that support a place like facebook? Mothers are a POWERFUL force as far as consumers are concerned. This might not end the way some of you expect it will.
  • Re:Why is this news? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by psychodelicacy (1170611) * <bstcbn@gmail.com> on Thursday January 01, 2009 @07:15PM (#26294341)

    Yup, I'm with you. In the end, breastfeeding in public isn't something I would really want to see, but whatever. But posting pictures of yourself breastfeeding just seems like being deliberately provocative.

    Those aren't the kind of pictures you need to share with everyone - if you want people to see them, there's always email... but I can guarantee you that the majority of those 400 Facebook "friends" you have really don't want to see that, any more than they want to hear about your newborn's growing poo-poo production or the consistency of his vomit. Parents need to accept that there are a hundred little things that are "cute" to them but pretty distasteful to the general populace.

  • Re:Why is this news? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jlarocco (851450) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @07:16PM (#26294353) Homepage

    Facebook isn't a common carrier. If they were, the policy of blocking bare breast pictures would already be a "problem" for them. The issue here is whether breast feeding should be thrown in that category.

    Also, as far as I know, common carrier status is something you can, at least in part, choose to be. If, like Facebook, your policy is to filter user content, then you're obviously not a common carrier. If they choose not to censor and let anybody use the service, then they *might* be a common carrier if certain other requirements are met. It's the service owner's decision, though. They're not required to be a common carrier. They can stop any time they want to. The catch is that if they choose to filter, then they HAVE to filter stuff like child pornography and copyright violations.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @07:18PM (#26294365) Journal

    If I was photobucket, I would disallow breastfeeding pictures not because I though they were sexual, but simply to avoid my site becoming the number one host for creeps who think it is.

    Why would you care? If someone is wanking off to breastfeeding pics, it doesn't automatically makes them "bad"; there are people wanking off to Disney cartoons, too, you know...

  • by fugue (4373) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @07:45PM (#26294595) Homepage

    Because one is an intimate act between two individuals; the other is just a normal feeding activity and the real reason why breasts exist.

    Nonsense. If sex were an intimate act between two individuals then there would be no laws concerning sex in public--nobody else would give a rat's ass. In fact sex is an exciting act to be part of or to watch, no matter how many people (and ducks or whatnot, to taste) are involved.

    Along comes Christianity (and other religions), asserting, contrary to all evidence, that sex is an intimate act between two individuals. Since it's so obviously not, society needs laws so that people who want to maintain their personal delusions about sex can legally threaten and harass anyone who provides evidence to the contrary.

    And a side note: if breasts exist for no reason other than feeding/scarring young children, then why do so many people (both men and women) have a sexual response to breast stimulation? Are so many people wired incorrectly? Is it all an artificial, incorrect, and arbitrary artifact of the media? Could they have sexualised knees in exactly the same way? Why do breasts have so much fat? They don't need it for milk production. Breasts are also a signal of sexual fitness. If you were being sarcastic, I apologise; I was up late. Breasts may have been involved...

  • Re:Why is this news? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cetialphav (246516) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @08:07PM (#26294811)

    Yup, I'm with you. In the end, breastfeeding in public isn't something I would really want to see, but whatever. But posting pictures of yourself breastfeeding just seems like being deliberately provocative.

    Those aren't the kind of pictures you need to share with everyone - if you want people to see them, there's always email... but I can guarantee you that the majority of those 400 Facebook "friends" you have really don't want to see that, any more than they want to hear about your newborn's growing poo-poo production or the consistency of his vomit. Parents need to accept that there are a hundred little things that are "cute" to them but pretty distasteful to the general populace.

    This is the huge downside to using some third party to manage your socializing. They will inevitably want to set some standards of acceptable use and that will certainly step on someone's toes. Facebook is excluding a small group of people. Since the vast majority aren't posting breastfeeding pictures they have no motivation to get upset over this. Since Facebook is a business they will never do anything to exclude a large number of people, but there is no reason for them not to exclude smaller groups (perhaps large numbers of smaller groups) in the name of "decency" and "family friendliness". Of course no one "needs" to share breastfeeding pictures just like there is no "need" for the vast majority of the crap that is on the Internet. Need is not the point. We do not know this lady or her 400 friends so who are we to say which pictures she shares with them.

    Personally, I refuse to use things like Facebook because why should I allow anyone to regulate how I can interact with my friends.

  • by fugue (4373) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @08:45PM (#26295155) Homepage

    Ah, so sorry--I wasn't so much disputing the "intimate" part as the "two individuals" part. If sex were just for two, then passers-by would find nothing interesting at all. They do, which I am citing as evidence that sex needn't be for just two people. For that matter, most sex involves just one person... which is also potentially titillating to passers-by.

    As for "intimate", that depends on your definition. Are you saying that sex can be intimate, or that it must? The earlier post seemed to assert the latter. I don't have a good definition, but I have seen lots that do not stand up to scrutiny when evaluated vs. the evidence. Many strangers will have sexual interest in watching a couple. Two men who have never met before can have great sex and then never see each other again. This isn't unnatural (not very popular, but not even remotely close to the fringe). Is discipline play intimate? And I think I won't even bother with bestiality, but if sex must be intimate, than the definition had better cover all of those things and much weirder stuff as well. And if sex could be intimate, then the original claim is completely vacuous.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @10:14PM (#26295839) Homepage

    the other is just a normal feeding activity and the real reason why breasts exist.

    I agree with your post in spirit, but actually there's an argument that this is incorrect. Other primates don't have breasts. They have mammary glands and nipples, but H sap is the only species of primates that has big lumps of fatty tissue on the female's chest. For that matter, a lot of men have the fatty tissue without having mammary glands. Lots of women are flatchested, and yet their mammary glands work just fine. H sap has several unusual evolutionary innovations in females that are probably the result of sexual selection [wikipedia.org], just like peacock feathers. These innovations include concealed ovulation, fatty breasts, and a narrow waist. So I hate to say it, but the real reason breasts exist is probably to turn on the male of the species. Most likely it evolved as a sort of advertising strategy that said, "Hey, I'm female, I'm sexually mature, and I'm so goddamn healthy and well fed that I could afford to build up all this fat tissue for no other reason than to give me the broadest possible selection of males to mate with."

    IMO the real reason to pressure private organizations (Facebook, restaurants, sports stadiums, ...) to mellow out about breast feeding is that breast feeding is so much better for babies than bottle feeding. My reaction to Facebook's prohibition on breast feeding photos is about the same reaction I'd have if Facebook prohibited photos of women getting prenatal care, or of children eating carrots, or of children running around outside and playing.

  • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:22AM (#26296769) Journal

    The Internet looks infinite, but it's not.

    No, it's only very, very large.

    It's only as infinite as peoples' ability to keep track of multiple sites.

    We have an answer for that, and its name is Google. There are very few sites that I know by heart, or have bookmarked -- if I need to find something, I STFW.

    But back to the social networking concept:

    If I duplicate Facebook's site and change only the breast policy, do you think that people will switch, even though the new one is better?

    I think that just goes to show how stupid and dangerous it is to allow a central authority to gain such control, especially when there are other alternatives. I consider it a critical flaw in most social networking sites that they don't support things like XFN, meaning that even if you do start to dislike Facebook, as TFA says, you can't carry your network with you.

    With a distributed system, you would own a URL ($10/year buys you a domain), which you could carry to any service you wanted, and keep your network.

    It is offensive that breasts are regarded as indecent. What's wrong with trying to change minds?

    Nothing wrong with it. I just think that your solution -- convince Facebook -- is short-sighted, although easier. For example: I consider it offensive that nudity is always "indecent", and that sex is "vulgar" -- we're as bad as the Victorians.

    No, the real (but difficult) solution is to convince Facebook's users to start building a truly distributed social network, so that there is no one entity which gets to decide what's acceptable and what isn't -- so that we can all decide for ourselves, just like with the rest of the Internet.

  • by ff1324 (783953) on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:23AM (#26296773)
    It's pretty funny reading these comments. My wife breast fed both of our kids until they were about 8 months old. I loved it. Not because I'm a pervert who wants his wife's hooter hanging out with my tax deduction hanging off it, but I loved it because my kids are healthy, well fed, and I don't have to spend fistfuls of cash on formula.

    She had a couple of times where someone would ask her not to feed the baby where she was. She would always calmly ask where the individual would like her to feed the baby. Both times, bathroom stalls were suggested. Both times she asked them if they would eat their food in there or give their baby a bottle in there. Both times, they walked away.

    The second time, the bitch at the mall called the police. It didn't work out too well, though. I was in the cop's wedding.
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Friday January 02, 2009 @12:47AM (#26296881)

    There's a difference between a statue and a picture of real tits.

    Not according to the government. [usatoday.com]

    Yes, well, maybe it's time for some of that "civil disobedience" that Slashdotters are so fond of promoting. The fact that the religious right in the U.S. considers the female body to be an object of shame is, itself, shameful. Most (well, okay, all) Europeans I know consider our government's attitude towards sex in general, and the human female in particular, to be provincial at best, uncivilized at worst. This is one case where I'm in complete agreement with them.

  • by Jedi Alec (258881) on Friday January 02, 2009 @05:06AM (#26297941)

    Most (well, okay, all) Europeans I know consider our government's attitude towards sex in general, and the human female in particular, to be provincial at best, uncivilized at worst. This is one case where I'm in complete agreement with them.

    The funny thing is that the bible-thumpers who faint at the sight of a breast perhaps need to read that little story about a woman and a man happily prancing around naked...the way they were apparently created in the image of some supreme being. Right up to the point where some snake convinced the lady to have a bite of an apple anyway.

    So chronologically speaking:

    - man and woman are naked and innocent, and all is good.
    - man and woman are coerced by his Evilness to eat of an apple, lose their innocence, and start covering themselves.
    - man and woman are kicked out of Eden.
    - woman strives to regain innocence while using breasts for their intended purpose, being the feeding of babies.
    - biblethumpers everywhere get up in arms about breasts being visible, be it in public or on the webz...

    So whose work are the biblethumpers doing?

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday January 02, 2009 @01:17PM (#26301177) Homepage

    I find it mildly arousing and I gather that most males do too. Even if they say they don't. A term like "seriously perverted" is a term of moral judgement. Someone has decided it is wrong, not merely infrequently indulged in.

    The moral judgment was made by those who view breastfeeding to be equal to a sex act, too lewd for public. The ones for whom it is so exciting to them that the woman may be prancing around naked for how well they can ignore it, then yeah, they're seriously perverted.

    I could talk about how social mores of the US have made any exposure of a female breast a sexual act, but you know what? It doesn't really matter. It's a pretty body part attached to an apparently fertile female and hence is inherently sexual no matter what the mores of society are.

    Well you should talk about social mores because it obviously does matter, otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation in the first place. What you're saying applies equally well to women's ankles, earlobes, collar bones, and those oh-so-pretty eyes. Only a few cultures of today have decided that ankles are so "inherently sexual" that they need to be covered. Ours has decided nipples are shameful and must be covered (with clothes not babies). Then there are places in Europe with a strong incest taboo, yet where a man wouldn't be embarrassed to go to a topless beach with a female relative. Breasts are not, apparently, that inherently sexual. Just like ankles, they certainly can be and are in the right context, but not inherently (as in unavoidably) so.

    If those body parts are unavoidably arousing and sexual, that sounds like either social mores, or nymphomania (or whatever the male equivalent is called).

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