Breastfeeding women protest outside Facebook offices

Breastfeeding women are protesting Facebook's policies for removing their images and blocking their accounts. Their method? They are breastfeeding outside of Facebook's offices around the world.
Written by Emil Protalinski, Contributor

Update: Facebook clarifies breastfeeding photo policy

Facebook has long history of being prudish when it comes to breasts. Facebook's policy strictly prohibits the sharing of images containing nudity, but that definition is on a blurry line and sometimes the company's policies go a little too far. That's exactly what's happening to breastfeeding women, according to Emma Kwasnica who says Facebook has wrongfully removed numerous pictures and blocked her account four times for posting breastfeeding photos. 30 of her pictures have been flagged as inappropriate, but the problem is that for public pictures, anyone can report them, and in the end Facebook employees decide what is and what isn't allowed.

Now, the Canadian is fighting back. She and other women have organized "nurse-ins" around the world, the goal of which is to have as many women as possible breastfeed outside their nearest Facebook office. The first protests were scheduled for today, but there are even more scheduled for later this week. At the time of writing, there were albums created for six cities where protests have already taken place: Menlo Park, Detroit, Toronto, New York, and Amsterdam, and Dallas.

Unsurprisingly, they're using Facebook to coordinate their activities. There's a Facebook Page titled "FB! Stop harassing Emma Kwasnica over her breastfeeding pics" with over 6,100 Likes. There's a Facebook Group titled "Hey Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene! (Official petition to Facebook)" with over 3,900 members. Most interestingly, there's now a Facebook Note titled "Locations for Facebook Nurse-In" to keep track of all the cities Facebook has offices in.

Under the third point of the Safety section, Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities reads: "You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence." It doesn't say anything specifically about breastfeeding, but Facebook's stance is gradually becoming clearer.

Facebook first started removing breastfeeding pictures back in 2008. The social networking giant said it was worried about allowing pictures of breasts on a site where the minimum age is 13-years-old. Eventually, this morphed into Facebook seemingly having a problem with the female nipple.

Last year, Facebook banned a breast cancer survivor over a nude photo. 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, or at least that's what I speculated at the time.

Kwasnica argues that Facebook isn't playing by its own rules: the company is reportedly removing breastfeeding photos too indiscriminately, and has told her that it can't stop the issue from happening on a regular basis. She and other women just want Facebook to leave all breastfeeding photos alone.

"This is discrimination," Kwasnica told SFGate. "There's no other way to look at it. We're being treated as pornographers. Breast-feeding moms, especially ones with infants, spend hours a day with their children at their breast. They're not trying to be sexually explicit. This is just part of their everyday lives. People ask, 'Why do you share it on Facebook?' and I say, 'Why do you share anything on Facebook?' "People share their whole days on Facebook, when they're eating, where they're eating, pictures of them feeding their kids spaghetti. We just see this as feeding our children."

Some users are indeed offended by breastfeeding pictures, but many also find them perfectly okay. Menlo Park needs to figure out which side it's on. I have contacted Facebook to see if my speculation about the nipple still holds, and will update you if I hear back.

Update: Facebook clarifies breastfeeding photo policy

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