The artworks Facebook has turned into porn | Digital Culture | DW | 21.03.2018
  1. Inhalt
  2. Navigation
  3. Weitere Inhalte
  4. Metanavigation
  5. Suche
  6. Choose from 30 Languages

Digital Culture

The artworks Facebook has turned into porn

Pictures of artworks depicting nudity are constantly deleted from Facebook by algorithms and actual staff at the social media giant. This time, the victim was France's most esteemed national heroine.

The notorious Facebook algorithms have once again stirred an outcry.

Last weekend, the social network renowned for its commitment to social causes — but less for its commitment to artistic freedom — was again at work. The victim this time was the famous painting, "Liberty leads the People," by French artist Eugene Delacroix.

The 1830 artwork depicts a rebellion during the July Revolution led by Marianne, France's most famous national heroine. What enraged the Facebook team in Silicon Valley was the fact that she was depicted not only with naked feet, but also with naked breasts.

Read moreFacebook removes Hungarian official's anti-migrant Vienna video

Nudity, not hate speech, is the villain

Facebook regulations forbid any depiction of nudity on its site. However, the company has repeatedly come under fire for its inconsistent censoring of content.

What many critics don't understand is the fact that Facebook's algorithms are good at identifying nudity, yet often ignore hate speech and depictions of violence — even including executions. In Germany, protest against this lopsided censorship has been growing for months, for example via the hashtag #nippelstatthetze ("nipple instead of hate"). 

 Venus of Willendorf (picture-alliance/H.Fohringer)

This stone age sculpture was deemed 'dangerously pornographic'

In early March, Facebook banned a picture of the stone age statue, "Venus of Willendorf," viewing it in the "dangerously pornographic" category. The company then retracted its censorship and even apologized. It did the same in the case of Marianne.

But in another instance, Facebook was less understanding.  A French user who had been banned from the network in 2011 for posting Gustave Courbet's "The Origin of the World" sued the company and demanded compensation. On March 15, a French court said that Facebook was wrong to close the account, but would not have to pay compensation because "damages" could not be proven.  

Read moreFacebook slammed for censoring German street artist

Gustave Courbet's the Origin of the World“

A French court said Facebook was wrong to ban a user for posting an image of Gustave Courbet's 'The Origin of the World'

Guidelines are too vague

These days, bus stops in Germany feature Facebook advertising posters that address the ongoing controversy about banned content. The poster promotes a short video in which a Facebook employee explains that the network must take the different cultural origins of its users into account, adding that this was why some of the guidelines were "broader than we would like them to be."

Read more: Cambridge Analytica: Facebook ‘outraged’ over misuse of user data 

In general, pictures of breasts were banned as soon as a nipple appeared, she explained.  There was a notable exception, however, concerning photographs of paintings and sculptures. Other depictions of nudity that had previously been censored but now are acceptable include pictures of mothers breastfeeding their babies.

If you're curious about other images that were previously censored by Facebook, please take a look at our picture gallery above.

Watch video 07:20
Now live
07:20 mins.

Facebook data scandal - German MP Patrick Sensburg talks to DW

DW recommends

Audios and videos on the topic

Advertisement