Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

Summary: A breast cancer survivor's Facebook account was blocked after she published a photo of her reconstructed breasts.


40-year-old Melissa Tullett, a cancer survivor, was banned from Facebook after posting a picture of her reconstructed breasts. She posted photos following a double mastectomy, including one showing her nipple tattoos, which the social network said broke its nudity rules.

The mother of four was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer two years ago. She had been recording her progress on Facebook to keep her friends and family up-to-date, as well as to share her story with other cancer patients. Nevertheless, Tullett received an e-mail from the website's administrators telling her that she must delete the photo in question.

I had to agree as I wanted to keep my profile as it has all the history of my ordeal on it," Tullett told Kent Online. "I took it down and my account was still there, but later when I logged back on it had been deactivated again. I felt bullied and picked on. It really upset me, I'm really impressed with the way my breasts look now. I think my breasts look fabulous. The photo is not offensive."

To fight back, her husband set up a Facebook group that asked for the account to be reactivated; about 1,000 people joined. Facebook soon reinstated Tullett's profile but the photo is still removed. She was happy to regain her account, including all the history of her fight with cancer, but notes it's a shame she can't keep the photo up.

"With over 500 million people using Facebook we have to put in place a set of universal guidelines that respect the views of a wide range of people," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "These policies are designed to ensure Facebook remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for everyone on Facebook, including children over the age of 13. As a result, nudity is not allowed. The image was removed because it contains what we categorize as nudity - not because of the nature of the nudity in question. We have now reinstated Melissa's profile, as the content has been removed."

The exact nature of Facebook's nudity policy has never been clear. The social network has previously allowed breasts whose nipples are covered, but it has also made exceptions in the past for certain breast cancer survivors that wanted to share their photos of scars as long as they did not post further nudity. Tullett's image included not just her scars but also her reconstructed nipples, which might be what caused the company to institute the ban.

Facebook appears to have a problem with the nipple, be it real or reconstructed, regardless of whether it is in a sexual context or not. To be even more explicit (no pun intended), we're talking about the female nipple: there have been no cases of topless men having their images removed or getting temporarily banned from the service.

Topic: Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

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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  • RE: Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

    The normal double standards of patriarchal-dominated American culture that wants to protect you from something that you probably didn't need protection from in the first place. Can we all grow up already?
  • Grow up, Facebook

    I'm married to a breast cancer survivor. Before the mastectomy, the surgeon provided us with a book showing women after their own operations. Some had reconstructive surgery and some hadn't. Seeing the bodies (but more importantly the proud faces) of these brave women was a great source of comfort at a difficult time. Facebook should realize that pictures like this are not titillation. They are essential moral support.
    • RE: Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

      Yes, but he didn't take out a full page ad in a newspaper OR put it on Facebook!
  • RE: Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

    If a users photo settings are most strict and only allows friends to see it, then I think Facebook can suck an egg. <br><br>If I have strict settings on a nude photo than Facebook employees should never see it, and then I should never be banned. But I suspect they can still look at it, which in my eyes violates the rules. <br><br>If her photos were open to the world than Facebook has a point. The rules should be different depending on security settings.
  • RE: Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

    Um, just quit Facebook. That's the only way to "fight" back.

    Even though I think it's stupid that you call care so much.
  • Well...from a search engine point of view...

    As one who has worked for a company that evaluates Google's search results and landing pages...that image would have been flagged as 'nudity - inappropriate'. (there's another rating for porn). So, it's not just Facebook's standards, Google themselves adheres to the same guidelines.<br><br>And, this woman being a cancer survivor is a moot point. Yes, it's great that she's alive and doing well, but that doesn't mean pictures of her breasts should be up on Facebook. And I say that as the son of a woman who's had both breasts removed due to cancer. If she had reconstructive surgery, i wouldn't defend her "right" to put pics on Facebook. Should a non-cancer survivor be able to show her breast augmentation pictures on facebook? <br><br>Or, conversely, to everyone up in arms about this...what if it were the husband, who had surgery after testicular cancer did it's damage? and <i>he</i> wanted to post pics?
  • RE: Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

    Zuckerberg should do something about this...if he's not he's a flipping moron.
    Brick Tamland
  • RE: Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

    i believe its disingenous to blame facebook for adhearing to fairly standard social stigma. For a parallel one only need to look at FCC regulation of television; its ok to show sex as long as you don't show nipple or genetilia? And it goes furthur, deciding wich words are offensive. As long as you don't say those words, you can say the MOST offensive things. Don't blame facebook, its society... besides... its their right, its a free service, im just grateful to have it.
    • RE: Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

      This is one point where Moslem and American societies agree.
      Dr BobM
  • RE: Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

    So If I'm a scrotal or penile tip cancer survivor shouldn't I be able to share my post cancer penile pictures with all my facebook friends?

    This is another great case of people whining because a FREE service has guidelines that govern behavior on their platform. If she really wants to share her "victory" over this disease, she can easily create a website outside of facebook and provide her friends, fans, and family alike a link to it, or is that too much work?
    • Thanks....

      @mrgoodall <br><br>...for offering a rational, well-reasoned solution.<br><br>Some people have an exaggerated sense of entitlement. <br><br>I wish that their notions of rights and fair play would reflect in their politics, but I suspect that the same people who feel misused because a free service places limits on them think nothing of giving away their rights and freedoms (and those of others) to the thugs who flaunt their authority.
      sissy sue
  • RE: Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

    I think posting pictures of her breasts as a main photo is not appropriate. Cancer or not. I am happy she is so proud of her reconstruction, but a little modesty would be nice.
    • RE: Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

      I agree with you. Whatever happened to class?
    • RE: Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

      @cardigangirl the real questions are: Why is there a double standard between men and women's nipples? Why is this (mostly) an American attitude? And why, to put it bluntly is sex denigrated and violence glorified in this society? I can't say I blame Facebook for their actions, they are simply doing what they think will least upset their users. I will comment however, that it is strange to hear the right-wing criticizing the left-wing for wanting a Nanny state, when it is the right-wing that initiates all these rules about nudity to "protect the innocents".... Oh yes, and why do they need protecting from a perfectly normal piece of anatomy that actually sustained their early life?
  • RE: Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

    Typical chauvinism. If it's not alright for women to show their nipples than neither should it be alright for men to do so.

    Censorship is offensive. Selective censorship with a sex bias blatently displayed is even more so.
    • RE: Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

      I agree! I think it should be mandatory for women to show their nipples!
      • RE: Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

        I second that.
        I Hate Malware
  • RE: Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

    It's just a breast. Seeing a breast never hurt anybody. I have more objections to violent images.
    And in this case that breast has socially redeeming value.
    • RE: Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

      By making men smile?
      I Hate Malware
  • Standard policies

    It would be impossible for Facebook to make individual calls for each user. If they allowed it, some parents of children would object. Can't please everyone.