Facebook's Arbitrary Offensiveness Police Take Down Informational Video About Breast Cancer Screening

from the bunch-of-boobs dept

Stories of Facebook's attempt at puritanical patrols of its site are legion at this point. The site has demonstrated it cannot filter out parody, artwork, simple speech in the form of outrage, iconic historical photos, or sculpture from its prude-patrol censorship. As a private company, Facebook is of course allowed to follow its own whim when it comes to what is allowed on its site, but as an important tool in this era for communication and speech, the company is also a legitimate target for derision when it FUBARs this as badly as it does so often.

So queue up the face-palming once more, as Facebook has decided to remove a video posted by a Swedish cancer charity informing women how to check for breast cancer, because the video included animated breasts, and breasts are icky icky.

Facebook has removed a video on breast cancer awareness posted in Sweden after deeming the images offensive, the Swedish Cancer Society said on Thursday. The video, displaying animated figures of women with circle-shaped breasts, was aimed at explaining to women how to check for suspicious lumps. Sweden’s Cancerfonden said it had tried in vain to contact Facebook, and had decided to appeal against the decision to remove the video.

Based on images on Cancerfonden's site, the tantalizing breasts in question were of the variety of stick figures. Not exactly tantalizing in its imagery, the video content was instead supposed to educate women on the proper method for detecting lumps that could be cancerous. Save for perhaps some minor percentage of humankind, these are the types of images that don't conjure a sexual connotation. And yet Facebook took them down.

To the social media giant's credit, it eventually put the video back up on its site and apologized.

In a statement to the BBC, a spokeswoman for Facebook said the images of the Swedish campaign had now been approved.

"We're very sorry, our team processes millions of advertising images each week, and in some instances we incorrectly prohibit ads," she said. "This image does not violate our ad policies. We apologise for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ads."

Which, you know, fine, but exactly how many of these types of stories must be endured before Facebook acknowledges that there is a problem with its filtering and censorship process? I don't think the exclusion of oversight is the answer, but I would hope that we could agree that if the takedown filters continue to catch bronze statues and breast cancer videos in its net, perhaps some recalibration is needed.


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  • icon
    Oninoshiko (profile), 26 Oct 2016 @ 2:48pm

    I only laugh because otherwise I would cry.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2016 @ 3:13pm

    Ramp up the embarrassment. Encourage everybody to include the ever-growing list of previous stupid takedowns when reporting a new one.

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

  • icon
    Groaker (profile), 26 Oct 2016 @ 3:27pm

    At least I can manage without facebook, not that I ever used it much.

    Unlike the TimeWarner, Comcast, AT&T cable cabal. There just are no alternatives where I live.

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

    • icon
      timmaguire42 (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 5:11am

      Re:

      I'm avoiding Facebook for the election season and would happily avoid it for the rest of my life if my idiot friends and relatives would stop using it to make major announcements.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2016 @ 3:31pm

    A clean miss by the thought police.

    This was an informational posting. So why did the 'ad police' kick in? It must have been provided via the ad 'whatever the hell FB uses'.

    Maybe they could learn the concept of a Public Service Announcements. If only they would lose their typical American Puritanical reactions.

    Just where did that boy grow up?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2016 @ 3:36pm

    Our team processes millions of advertising images each week

    So they should know how to do it by now, no?

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

  • icon
    discordian_eris (profile), 26 Oct 2016 @ 3:59pm

    Sigh

    Guess their policies have simply gone tits up.

    This, this is why men should not be involved in decisions like this.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2016 @ 6:44pm

      Re: Sigh

      No. If it was men that did it, the boobies would have remained on Facebook without problems.

      But on a serious note, their moderation team probably has a script. Has Bare Boobies = Yes? It's inappropriate. Black and white; no consideration for context.

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

    • icon
      Groaker (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 3:19am

      Re: Sigh

      Men also develop breast cancer. And when they do it tends to be far more malignant than that found in women. Facebook is not simply misogynistic, it is anti-human.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2016 @ 5:25pm

      Re: Sigh

      No sure what you're talking about. Facebook is run by women.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2016 @ 4:30pm

    Facebook now acting as Big Sister.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2016 @ 10:46pm

    As a man who has had a mammogram I am shocked. I can't imagine having grown up without the Sears Roebuck Catalogue or National Geographic Magazine.

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

  • icon
    timmaguire42 (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 5:10am

    Can we drop lines like "[a]s a private company, Facebook is of course allowed to follow its own whim when it comes to what is allowed on its site," from these stories? It's offensive that we're supposed to apologize and qualify perfectly reasonable objections to objectionable behavior.

    As for Facebook's credit for putting the video back up. Very little credit is deserved. Actual credit should be reserved for when they start doing a better job of avoiding these problems in the future.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 28 Oct 2016 @ 1:46pm

      Re:

      Can we drop lines like "[a]s a private company, Facebook is of course allowed to follow its own whim when it comes to what is allowed on its site," from these stories?

      At Techdirt maybe, but what percentage of a general audience understands that the first amendment only applies to the government? I don't know, but it's not 100%.

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

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 8:12am

    1 thousand little dictators deciding to take down anything that offends them. As such there is no rhyme or reason to the take downs, they offended someone somehow.

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

  • icon
    discordian_eris (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 11:25am

    Here's a word I coined several decades ago that perfectly encapsulates what they are doing. Hell, it describes the primary motivations of so many things in America. From things like Facebooks policies to our financial institutions to almost all of our politicians.

    Patheticism

    The guiding philosophy of America, the race to see who's behaviour is the most pathetic. Mr. Masnick, I gift you this new word, as it perfectly describes the overwhelming majority of the articles here on Techdirt. Not the articles themselves, but the subjects of the articles and the way that the people and organizations in them act.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2016 @ 7:51am

    How many stories?

    Which, you know, fine, but exactly how many of these types of stories must be endured before Facebook acknowledges that there is a problem with its filtering and censorship process?

    Paying someone to apologize every week or so isn't a big deal for Facebook. Unless there's evidence they're losing users or advertisers over this, should they even care? I hear lots of users complain about Facebook but they're still users.

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

  • icon
    blogagog (profile), 29 Oct 2016 @ 12:57pm

    Boobs are neato. Just sayin'.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2016 @ 1:49am

    I highly suspect that an automated algorithm, no real humans, was responsible for this one. And most of the ones involving anything tech connected.
    It doesn't mean there aren't real people out there making similar bone head actions. You see, with computers and the internet, we have greatly expanded what people can do in society, including dumbass things.

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


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