Facebook bans breast cancer survivor over nude photo

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.