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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  • identicon
    Emil Kirkegaard, 15 Jan 2016 @ 8:30pm

    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.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Mermaid_%28statue%29
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ The_Little_Mermaid

    I submit that this makes this decision even more ridiculous.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2016 @ 7:52am

      Re: National treasure

      Indeed. The Danish sculpture I'd censor is Hein's Superegg. It doesn't offend my sense of decency, it offends my sense of balance.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2016 @ 11:42am

      Re: National treasure

      [blockquote]For those that don't know, this statue is a national treasure in Denmark. Year year it draws thousands of tourists to Denmark.[/blockquote]

      Everyone knows: sex sell.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 16 Jan 2016 @ 12:08am

    It's not like I ever thought facebook wasn't stupid, but there's something rotten in the mind of facebook.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2016 @ 12:13am

    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)
    http://www.top10hq.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/angelina-jolie-beowulf.jpg

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stan (profile), 16 Jan 2016 @ 1:04am

    On cemsorship

    "The whole principle is wrong; it's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't eat steak." - Robert A. Heinlein in ""The Man Who Sold the Moon"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 16 Jan 2016 @ 1:27am

    Shrug

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2016 @ 2:12am

      Re: Shrug

      So making any hard and fast rules excluding art is just not going to work for ensuring a comfortable environment for everybody

      That is the wrong basis for managing the use of a social media site. It should be up to the users to connect to people that they are comfortable following.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2016 @ 6:42am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2016 @ 7:52am

      Re: Shrug

      The naked body is offensive?
      Wow - what a bunch of prudes.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 17 Jan 2016 @ 8:45am

        Re: Re: Shrug

        "The naked body"? I think I chose my example a bit more poignant than that. If Michelangelo had sculpted his David with various toys sticking in his orifices, I rather doubt that he'd gotten the commission for the Sistine Chapel.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2016 @ 8:56am

          Re: Re: Re: Shrug

          I looked at the sculpture again, but failed to see any toys. Not sure what you are going on about.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mark Wing, 16 Jan 2016 @ 2:31am

    Art is disgusting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OldGeezer (profile), 16 Jan 2016 @ 6:13am

    So what if I wanted to post the famous statue of David by Michelangelo genitals and all? Would Facebook censor that?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2016 @ 6:45am

    The disturbing thing is how this conservatism threatens to freeze culture in place. Can you imagine Facebook in the Victorian era taking down pictures of women's exposed ankles?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2016 @ 7:54am

      Re:

      Rest assured, American Taliban are here to save the day from that despicable and grossly offensive artwork.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2016 @ 12:18pm

        Re: Re:

        Actually it's quite likely the actual Taliban- or someone quite similar.

        To save money they hire censors in the third world - many of who have an Islamic sense of decency.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2016 @ 8:16am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2016 @ 4:06am

      Re:

      If you think Zuckerberg is a conservative you are crazy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pinna, 16 Jan 2016 @ 7:03am

    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-medier ne/

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Slinky (profile), 16 Jan 2016 @ 7:10am

    Censorship galore

    I think this chick is HOT, or is it just me ? ;)
    Vintage "sculptporn" anno 1913, those were the days.

    Even on the danish wikipedia the little mermaid image has been censored because of copyright.

    https://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Den_lille_Havfrue

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      klaus (profile), 18 Jan 2016 @ 6:39am

      Re: Censorship galore

      Fascinating yet bizarre - as for the Danes the statue is blanked out for the French, Finns,...

      Brits, Russians, Spaniards do get to see her in the flesh.

      Italians and Germans get several shots, some full-frontal.

      Japanese, Dutch & Portuguese though doesn't even get a picture, blanked or otherwise.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2016 @ 7:59am

    On a totally unrelated note, John Ashcroft's stockbroker has been getting very confused.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 17 Jan 2016 @ 4:32am

    History repeats

    Isn't it amazing how far culture has come since the 16th Century when popes started censoring dicks on statues?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mark Wing, 18 Jan 2016 @ 12:44am

    The great sculptors made porn accessible to the masses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Diana H., 18 Jan 2016 @ 8:45am

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Cdaragorn (profile), 18 Jan 2016 @ 10:29am

    Can we disagree without throwing insults around?

    Regardless of whether you think Facebook was ok doing this or not, there is nothing wrong with feeling that showing nudity in public is inappropriate. There is certainly no reason to throw insults at anyone that feels that way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2016 @ 10:57am

      Re: Can we disagree without throwing insults around?

      What insults?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Indigo, 19 Jan 2016 @ 6:50am

      Re: Can we disagree without throwing insults around?

      OK, no guys with their shirts off in public or on-screen or in adverts any more--nudity is nudity. Have you ever noticed, it's the men who have the problem with showing breasts, not women? However, they can take anything off in public they please.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2016 @ 11:26am

        Re: Re: Can we disagree without throwing insults around?

        I'm a guy and I have no prob with boobs in public and I do not think I am in the minority here.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 19 Jan 2016 @ 3:31pm

    The Horror

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

    Why should we be ashamed of our bodies?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    US Bronze, 26 Oct 2016 @ 10:35am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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