Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Facebook, Schmacebook!

This post originally appeared on Campus Progress.

Facebook raised a few eyebrows last week when it announced it would no longer run advertisements for Proposition 19, California’s pro-marijuana initiative, as long as they featured a picture of a pot leaf. According to one spokesperson, the site doesn’t “allow any images of drugs, drug paraphernalia, or tobacco in ad images … Sometimes our automated and manual processes miss these, but our policy has always been the same.”

The incident renewed questions about the criteria by which Facebook deems ads — and content in general — “appropriate.” But if nixing a “pro-drug” image is staying appropriate, wouldn’t it also make sense rid of sexist and racist content? According to Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, “You will not post content or take any action on Facebook that infringes or violates someone else’s rights or otherwise violates the law.” Drawing the line between violating rights and maintaining a standard of simple decency becomes more complicated.

Currently, Facebook allows a veritable potpourri of less-than-sophisticated images to appear in its ads — from scantily clad “Christian Girls” to a Google logo with two barely covered breasts standing in for the word’s two Os. Thong bikinis abound, as do images that seem to promise some sort of lesbian sexual encounter if clicked. For a while, the site even allowed photos of a topless model, her breasts barely covered by a thin red bar, to promote a dating site. Though the latter ads were eventually removed, various hyper-sexualized images, like the ones below, still remain:

So what exactly are the rules? In 2008, Facebook formally drew the line by saying they’d remove any photographs that revealed the “nipple or areola,” but this regulation became problematic after the site began yanking pictures of mothers breastfeeding their children. Arguing that they had been subjected to a sexual double standard, more than 11,000 women protested the rule by waging a virtual “nurse-in,” posting pictures of themselves breastfeeding. The site refused to budge on the issue; and at last count, a petition page called “Hey facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!” claimed 259,572 signatories.


No comments: