Image censorship: time to rise up against Facebook?
In its early days, photographers worked extraordinarily hard to gain photography as a recognized and viable form of art. The argument against photography as art centered around the supposed ease of capturing an image compared to the exhausting work of painting a piece. I believe these arguments originate from a lack of understanding of the process involved in the activity. Is photography an art form? If you are finding a location, lighting it, posing a model and then post-processing the image, I would say most certainly it is an art form. As a photographer, you are in control of crafting all the aspects of your image and your viewers should be able to enjoy your photo as you intend it to be seen, and not be censored. Should companies like Facebook be allowed to censor your art and force you to blur out parts of the body that everyone has seen many times? Let’s talk about it…
I lurk and participate in many different photography related groups on Facebook and by far, the complaint I see most often is about Facebook’s algorithm deleting an image due to violating community standards. Members of these groups resort to all sorts of extremes to circumvent these posting guidelines such as blurring nipples and other body parts, and even placing smiley face emojis on the offending body parts. These members often follow the pattern of posting an image of a nude model which gets deleted because they didn’t censor it, resulting in a temporary suspension of their account. Once the user is back from “Facebook Jail” they post about the unfair practice of censorship on Facebook and threaten to leave the platform for a more nude friendly environment, only to return and begin posting images which fit into the community guidelines set forth by Facebook. These users often still feel like they were being picked on because Facebook deleted their photo.
So, as photographers, what are we to do? Should Facebook be allowed to censor our art? Are we to stage some sort of mass exodus from the oppressive community standards of Facebook? If we all delete our Facebook accounts that will show them, right? Sadly no. The truth of the matter is that if tomorrow all of photographers left Facebook for another platform, it would hardly be a blip on the daily income and traffic generated by the behemoth that Facebook is. According to statista.com, “As of the first quarter of 2019, Facebook had 2.38 billion monthly active users”, the guidelines set by Facebook are instituted to protect them, not you. They aren’t going to jeopardize their business over your right to post photos of nude models. The automated posting algorithms that review your posts aren’t sophisticated enough to discern images of naked adults from children, so they are taking the safe route and not allowing any of it. Facebook offers you their service for free, all it costs you is the hassle of watching a few ads in your feed now and then.
Google originally created their site Google+ as a photography-centric alternative to Facebook and allowed posting of fully nude content. From its debut, the site was regarded as a joke and the intended audience (photographers) never widely adopted the platform. Google even partnered with well-known photographer Scott Kelby in 2012 to hold the first (and last) Google+ photography Conference. Even with the powerhouse personality lineup and Google-level promotion and funding, Google Plus is slated to be shut down later this year, because Facebook remains the de facto place to go for… well everything.
What alternative do we as photographers have to Facebook then? Can we stand up to them and force them to change their policy on what we as artists post? There are many other places to post your images, such as 500px, and Flickr (now owned by Smugmug, who purchased it from Yahoo) but the reality of the situation is that even at their best, the photography-centric platforms aren’t going to be able to touch the traffic and exposure potential Facebook has. You can also start your own website, but chances are that your traffic isn’t going to be anywhere near what you will see on Facebook. If you run a photography business and rely on your own homegrown website as your sole source of exposure, chances are you are going to have a tough go if it.
When you signed up for your Facebook account, you were presented with a huge, long document called the EULA or End User License Agreement, most of us just scrolled by it and clicked “I agree”. In this document the user agrees to abide by the community standards when posting. You can find the community standards here, these include a clear objection to sexual or adult content: “We restrict the display of nudity or sexual activity because some people in our community may be sensitive to this type of content. Additionally, we default to removing sexual imagery to prevent the sharing of non-consensual or underage content. Restrictions on the display of sexual activity also apply to digitally created content unless it is posted for educational, humorous, or satirical purposes.” If you have never read through the community guidelines for posting, I encourage you to do so. Not to have a fatalistic, view of this situation, but Facebook is a multi-billion dollar company and their standards are in place to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for everyone. Most photographers are comfortable with nudity, but the general public is not. To reap the benefits of Facebook’s 2 billion plus user reach, you have to abide by their rules, plain and simple.
What is your opinion? Let’s start a dialog on social media about image censorship! You can reach me at any of the links below. Thanks for reading!
Hey! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to contact me via my social media sites I would love to hear your thoughts on this or any of my other articles! Until then, get out and get shooting!
My Photography site: http://www.tahquechi.com/
My Bodyscapes project: http://www.bodyscapes.photography/
My travel site: http://www.blindtravels.com/
Instagram and Twitter: @nedskee
Facebook community standards: