Facebook removes photo of two men kissing

Summary:Facebook has removed a photo of two men kissing, causing quite a bit of controversy as the photo accompanied a story about protesting a bar which kicked out two men for kissing in the corner.

Facebook has removed a photo of two men kissing because it apparently violates the social network's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Online talk show host Richard Metzger believes the photo was pulled after a complaint by one of his Facebook friends who also ranted about it on his Facebook page.

This all began in the UK with a demonstration against a bar which kicked out two men because they were supposedly kissing in the corner. The protest itself drew hundreds of people, including the two men who were kissing: 26-year-old Jonathan Williams and 23-year-old Jamie Bull.

Fellow blogger Niall O'Conghaile quoted the story covered by Pink News and added the photo in question. Metzger later posted the article to his Facebook wall, only to have it removed ostensibly because of the photo (pictured above). He received an email from Facebook with the subject "Facebook Warning" which he called perplexing, annoying, and infuriating:

Hello,

Content that you shared on Facebook has been removed because it violated Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Shares that contain nudity, or any kind of graphic or sexually suggestive content, are not permitted on Facebook.

This message serves as a warning. Additional violations may result in the termination of your account. Please read the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities carefully and refrain from posting abusive material in the future. Thanks in advance for your understanding and cooperation.

The Facebook Team

The photo is originally from the popular BBC soap opera EastEnders and was not used in the original Facebook Event for promoting the kiss-in protest. At first it appeared that the event had been removed too but the creator of the event, Paul Shetler, denied the allegation. He chimed in to say that he set the event to private after it was over, making it only visible to those who had been invited because "there were starting to be trolls posting abusive nonsense on it."

Nevertheless, Mertzer wants Facebook users to take a stand: "I've written to Facebook asking them why this content was removed, but have at this point received no reply. I'll update this post when I do. In the meantime, why not share this photo on FB as much as you can?"

It's quite clear that this image does not contain "nudity" or "graphic or sexually suggestive content," unless of course the viewer is sensitive to the point where he or she finds two men kissing as "sexually suggestive." Considering how many pictures on Facebook contain two straight people making out, should this image really have been removed?

Facebook's FAQ clearly states that an administrator looks into each report of a violation, so it seems unlikely that this is the result of an automatic ban. Here's the relevant part from I received a warning from Facebook:

Does Facebook remove everything that gets reported?

No. A Facebook administrator looks into each report thoroughly in order to decide the appropriate course of action. If no violation of our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities has occurred, then no action will be taken. If a violation has occurred, then you may receive a warning or become disabled, depending on the severity of the violation.

I've contacted Facebook to see if there's been some sort of misunderstanding and if this decision is final.

Update: "The photo in question does not violate our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and was removed in error," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "We apologize for the inconvenience."

Topics: Social Enterprise

About

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years, he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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