Facebook Nixes Picture Of Bronze Mermaid Statue For Showing Too Much 'Skin'

from the no-skin-in-the-game dept

As they say, with great power comes great responsibility. Facebook, being a dominant force in the social media industry, certainly has a great deal of power, but how does it do in the responsibility department. It’s an important question, because as a platform essentially designed to facilitate speech and expression, it would seem necessary to treat with care how it collides with that speech when controversy arises. Unfortunately, we’ve seen time and time again how Facebook treats the question bureaucratically rather than with any kind of nuance. Between bending the knee to national interests, promising to censor speech deemed to be hateful, or just flat out hiding behind a wall of corporate speak in order to take down photos, the trend for Facebook is one of grip-tightening rather than free expression.

And so the trend continues, being helpfully highlighted by an instance in which a Danish public official has a photo of a bronze statue removed for showing too much body.

Social Democrat MP Mette Gjerskov wanted to post a link to her blog, which included a shot of the bronze statue, when she received a rejection notification from the site, the Ekstra Bladet website reports. The message, which Ms Gjerskov shared on her social media accounts, said the Little Mermaid image contained “too much bare skin or sexual undertones”. It added that the rules applied even if an image had “artistic or educational purposes”.

Here is the Little Mermaid statue in question.

If you find that image arousing, you are in severe need of psychological care. The idea of a bronze piece of art showing too much skin is the kind of ridiculousness you can only get from bureaucracy, even in the private sector. Rules built to stifle speech that cast wide nets will always, always, always catch too much non-offending speech to be worth the policy.

Now, Facebook eventually agreed after complaints were sent in, citing a policy clarification from last year.

Ms Gjerskov described the decision as “totally ridiculous”, although in a later update she said Facebook had subsequently relented and approved the image. In March 2015, the site clarified its rules on nudity and said that it does allow photos of paintings, sculptures and other art that depicts nude figures.

Except this doesn’t really solve the issue. Instead, it transfers the dilemma to the question of exactly who are the arbiters of what constitutes artistic expression which should be allowed under the policy. One person’s art may be another’s pornography, after all. And, while the solution probably can’t be a completely limitless allowance of all kinds of nudity in every case, it seems clear that any policy currently entrapping bronze statues of mermaids is probably off by a matter of multiples.

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Comments on “Facebook Nixes Picture Of Bronze Mermaid Statue For Showing Too Much 'Skin'”

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Emil Kirkegaard (user link) says:

National treasure

For those that don’t know, this statue is a national treasure in Denmark. Year year it draws thousands of tourists to Denmark. It is based a the story by the famous Danish children’s writer Hans Christian Andersen.


I submit that this makes this decision even more ridiculous.

Anonymous Coward says:

If you find that image arousing, you are in severe need of psychological care.

Why? That is obviously Angelina Jolie with body painting in front of a green screen!

Just like in the Beowulf movie where a guy goes to Denmark slaying a monster and then this scene happens (Jolie nude’ish in body paint in front of a green screen)

David says:


Just because something has been created manually instead of a technical reproductive process (like photography) does not mean that it’s inherently less offensive. If you take a look at the “Made in Heaven” series of Jeffrey Koons who has achieved the highest price of a work from a living artist at an auction so far, it would be hard to argue that the label “art” should be sufficient for declaring his work inoffensive.

Questioning societal standards is one of the basic functions of art. Not least of all nude depictions. So making any hard and fast rules excluding art is just not going to work for ensuring a comfortable environment for everybody because a lot of art does not aim to comfort.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Shrug

“It should be up to the users”

Those users gave up all control of how their data would be handled the moment they signed up for the service and accepted the ToS. Until more people develop and adopt software and services that give them greater freedom, this issue will continue to occur.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I think freezing culture in place is almost the very definition of conservatism. Funny how so many people’s values become conservative right about the same time their wealth & status is waxing. Or maybe it’s not funny, just a common human instinct.

That’s why I strive to maintain a life of penury and depression: if you stay near the bottom of the heap, you can at least enjoy the changes in the world. It also prevents me from droning on & on about Werther’s Originals and my rose bushes.

Pinna says:

A note to the ridiculous copyright concerning the image of the statue.

Even though people take private pictures of the statue every day and being a national icon, the heirs to the late sculpturer, Edvard Eriksen, still retain the copyright of the image of the statue and to this day bills publications who publish pictures of the statue severely.

In 2005 newspaper Berlinske was court ordered to pay $1800 to the heirs for publicating an image of the statue. http://www.thelocal.dk/20140816/denmarks-iconic-symbol-that-we-cant-show-you

To celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the statue in 2013. Politiken, one of Denmarks biggest newspaper, refused to publish an image of the statue because of copyright concerns.

(Danish link) http://politiken.dk/kultur/kunst/ECE2055937/arvingerne-til-den-lille-havfrue-spaender-ben-for-medierne/

I have no idea if the copyright covers here at Techdirt as well, but I could see the heir take issue with images of the statue on Facebook.

The copyright of the statue expires in 2030.

Diana H. (profile) says:

Too Much Skin!

This is very concerning. I am 54 years old and I remember seeing pictures of bronze in text books, in presentations in class during lecture and when I was a kid and helped my mother quiz for her tests for college. My God, I think I even had one included with some pictures that came with my “View Master.”
The Horror!
I can’t believe I was subjected to such a thing and on multiple occasions. I will need therapy from the PTSD I have from seeing that “Little Mermaid.” My eyesight has degenerated a bit now at 54 and I am sure it is related to my eyes inability to process such an outrage.
I am sure that every single problem I have every had or will have all goes back to too “The Little Mermaid” Those tricky Dutch! Too much skin….Oh, sing Siren Sing!

US Bronze (user link) says:

So odd that such a well-known bronze sculpture would find itself flagged for this content. At least Facebook has made some attempts to loosen their restrictions in the event of accidental flagging of artwork and national treasures like The Little Mermaid statue. That’s the double-edged sword of automated filters on a multi-national website though… What could be considered inappropriate in one community may not be in another and trying not to let those slip through can accidental block the wrong things.

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