Facebook Censors Art Historian's Photo Of Neptune's Statue-Penis

from the pics-or-gtfo dept

It's probably time for Facebook to give up trying to be the morality police, because it isn't working. While nobody expects the social media giant to be perfect at policing its site for images and posts deemed "offensive", it's shown itself time and time again to be utterly incapable of getting this right at even the most basic level. After all, when the censors are removing iconic historical photos, tirades against prejudice, forms of pure parody, and images of a nude bronze statue in the name of some kind of corporate puritanism, it should be clear that something is amiss.

Yet the armies of the absurd march on, it seems. Facebook managed to kick off the new year by demanding that an Italian art historian remove an image of a penis from her Facebook page. Not just any penis, mind you. It was a picture of a godly penis. Specifically, this godly penis.


That, should you not be an Italian art historian yourself, is a picture of a statue of the god Neptune. In the statue, which adorns the public streets of Bologna, Neptune is depicted with his heavenly member hanging out, because gods have no time for clothes, of course. Yet this carved piece of art somehow triggered a Facebook notice to the photographer, Elisa Barbari.

According to the Telegraph, Barbari got the following notification from Facebook. “The use of the image was not approved because it violates Facebook’s guide lines on advertising. It presents an image with content that is explicitly sexual and which shows to an excessive degree the body, concentrating unnecessarily on body parts. The use of images or video of nude bodies or plunging necklines is not allowed, even if the use is for artistic or educational reasons.”

Even were I to be on board with a Facebook policy banning nudity and, sigh, "plunging necklines" even in the interest of education or art -- which I most certainly am not on board with -- the claim that the image is explicitly sexual and focused on "body parts" is laughably insane. There's nothing sexual about the depiction of Neptune at all, unless we are to believe that all nudity is sexual, which simply isn't true. Also, the depiction focuses not on one body part, but on the entire statue. Nothing about this makes sense.

And that's likely because Facebook is relying on some kind of algorithm to automatically generate these notices. Confusingly, the site's own community standards page makes an exception for art, despite the notice Barbari received claiming otherwise.

Strangely, an exception is made for art. “We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.”

Except when it doesn't, that is. Look, again, nobody is expecting Facebook to be perfect at this. But the site has a responsibility, if it is going to play censor at all, to at least be good enough at it not to censor statues of art in the name of prohibiting too much skin.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 2:50pm

    Statutory nudity makes Mark Zuckerberg feel inadequate.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 2:54pm

    What a dick move!

    And that pretty much sums it up.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 3:02pm

    too much skin

    > too much skin

    So now zero skin is too much?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2017 @ 5:17am

      Re: too much skin

      zero tolerance of any skin - is this what we have to look forward to?

      American taliban are busy writing your new laws and they are not tolerant of anything.

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

  • identicon
    SW, 4 Jan 2017 @ 3:25pm

    It's a bronze statue, not marble. Bronze is cast, not carved. The artist moulds clay into the form they want (an additive, not subtractive process) and then a mould is made from the clay original. Then bronze is poured into the mould and when it's cooled, the artist pulls off the mould and discards it.

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

  • icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 3:29pm

    Narcissism?

    I'm thinking it's more likely someone just looking for something to be upset about, and if they succeed, they've somehow in their tiny mind made their mark on the world.

    Probably the same people that comment "First!" or "NOTICE ME!!!!!" desperate for validation that they're relevant, at least on YouTube.

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

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 3:48pm

    I heard that they changed Aquaman's uniform for the new Justice League movie, but this is a surprise.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 3:54pm

    No Dangly Bits Allowed

    Facebook doesn't even want to sea a god's penis.

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

  • icon
    MrTroy (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 3:56pm

    Too much?

    > ... in the name of prohibiting too much skin.

    Or in this case, too much bronze.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 5:08pm

    How many of these articles are you going to write? If it helps to pay the bills so be it, but reporting each instance with the same conclusion doesn't seem to be making any difference.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 5:30pm

      Re:

      Keep in mind, this isn't an article covering a previous stupid action by FB, but a new example. So long as FB keeps making boneheaded decisions like this pointing it out will continue to be relevant.

      Or put another way: When FB stops being ridiculous on this subject, then TD will no longer have a reason to cover the topic.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 6:36pm

        Re: Re:

        Facebook's policy is to be arbitrary. This isn't novel at all, it's just another example if it. Due to Facebook's massiveness there will always be chuckle-worthy examples generated every day.

        Reposting these perpetually with no new insight is buzzfeed tier shallowness.

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 6:55pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          This isn't novel at all, it's just another example if it.

          And if you ever want it to stop, and/or prevent other companies from doing the same, it helps to call them out when they do it, even if they do so regularly.

          If it's a problem and/or an example of a stupid policy then it doesn't stop being those things if you don't mention it when it comes up, but it might if people keep pointing it out and enough of a momentum builds that it's more worth to the company to change it versus just sitting back and doing nothing.

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

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 6:15pm

      Re:

      I rather enjoy this line of thinking. Under this idea, the media ought not report on wars, murders, etc. They've reported on those things for, like, ever, and they still occur, so apparently it isn't making any difference and they should stop....

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 6:42pm

        Re: Re:

        It's a false equivalency. You can't move to a world without wars and murders. Being effected by Facebook censorship requires a conscious effort to use their services.

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

        • icon
          MrTroy (profile), 4 Jan 2017 @ 7:16pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          There's no false equivalence to the stories. You can't move to a world without Facebook either, but you DO have to make a conscious effort to read either kind of news story.

          I'm all for DH's suggestion for media to stop reporting on wars, but rather than wait for it to happen I'll just not read those stories.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2017 @ 9:11pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          > You can't move to a world without wars and murders.

          You can't move to a world without Facebook, either.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 5 Jan 2017 @ 12:00am

          Re: Re: Re:

          A world, perhaps not. But, if you read about lots of wars and murders in places you visit, you can also choose not to visit those places. Just as you can choose not to read and comment on articles about Facebook's censorship if you want.

          "Being effected by Facebook censorship requires a conscious effort to use their services."

          ...and if you want to avoid being *affected* by their censorship, it requires being informed of that censorship and its nature. Which might require some sites to be reporting on that, rather than just assuming everyone just knows about it through the ether, perhaps?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2017 @ 1:48am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Being effected by Facebook censorship requires a conscious effort to use their services.

          Being mugged requires a conscious effort to walk on the streets. Sometimes the solution to a problem is not to live like a hermit, but rather to take the risks and work to improve society.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2017 @ 5:25am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Rather than admit you reached a bit too far, you claim false equivalence ... lol - your deflection, how lame.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 5 Jan 2017 @ 4:29am

      Re:

      Just skip them. You are not forced to read. I agree with the other readers. I want to know when it happens and it should keep being written as a warning/reminder for us and to call out the BS of their policies.

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

    • icon
      JMT (profile), 5 Jan 2017 @ 2:52pm

      Re:

      Yeah, the best way to convince someone to change their behavior is to tell them ONCE and then shut up about it. Why would they need to be told again?!

      You don't have kids do you...

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

  • identicon
    Pizuz, 4 Jan 2017 @ 9:32pm

    I won't comment on Facebook's decision on censoring genitalia on bronze statues, but as someone who's actually seen it with his own eyes, I can tell you that there certainly are some angles that are a lot more...revealing:

    http://media.tumblr.com/bdb582fd7ac60df3a554ff9b46a1bcdb/tumblr_inline_mnba0yMrQZ1r bp8y1.jpg

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 5 Jan 2017 @ 4:26am

    They don't just censor the public posts. They actively scan their messenger as well for naughty bits. We have news that they were meddling with pirate-y links or things they don't like but not satisfied with it they are filtering nude images. A friend of mine was having a sexy chat with his girl and both tried sending naughty pics to each other. Their accounts were suspended with a message about site policies.

    I've ditched Facebook messenger long ago and I'm in the process of getting rid of Facebook itself altogether. Mr Zuckeberg can go be the moral zealot of himself.

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

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 5 Jan 2017 @ 4:30am

    Not Automatic

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

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 5 Jan 2017 @ 4:35am

    Not Automatic

    And that's likely because Facebook is relying on some kind of algorithm to automatically generate these notices.

    No it isn't automatic - it's done by low paid workers in the 3rd world where ideas about "art" and "decency" are somewhat different from ours.

    See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/9118778/The-dark-side-of-Facebook.html or many other examples of this story - for those who never believe the Telegraph.

    Moderators in Islamic countries in particular are likely to censor all kinds of things that we would accept without a blink.

    Remeber what happened when the Iranian leader visited the Vatican..

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/26/rome-spares-iranian-presidents-blushes-cover ing-nude-statues

    When the

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2017 @ 5:29am

    Today it is exposed skin,
    tomorrow it could be women driving or
    mandatory prayers several times a day.

    It is a megalomaniac's wet dream.

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

  • icon
    art guerrilla (profile), 5 Jan 2017 @ 5:59am

    as a sidebar, was watvhing some youtube clips on funny/weird tee shirt text, and it had a LOT of asians who sported ALL kinds of nasty stuff beyond mere 'fucks' and 'shits', stuff like a list of english derogatory slang for various ethnic/'racial' groups (spic, kike, nigger, etc), and a number of weird malapropisms which made no sense...
    wonder how many who wore those, understood what the text meant... a LOT were on very young kids, too...
    i presume these are cheap/free tee shirts and that they have no idea what the text means...
    wonder how many english speakers are wearing tee shirts with chinese/etc words on them which are awful statements they dont have a clue about...

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

  • identicon
    Digitari, 5 Jan 2017 @ 7:00am

    I agree......

    Human genitalia provides nothing good for the planet.








    s/?

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

  • identicon
    Sean Gleeson, 5 Jan 2017 @ 7:43am

    Where is the actual banned photo?

    Also, the depiction focuses not on one body part, but on the entire statue.

    Do we know this? None of the stories about this, that I have seen, include the actual image that Facebook banned. (The one illustrating your article is a stock photo.) I guess what I'm asking is, how do we know the offending image was not, like, a close-up of Neptune's phallus? Does anyone know where we can see the photo?

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

  • identicon
    Steve Zissou, 5 Jan 2017 @ 11:55am

    They're different uses of the word... from Facebook's perspective their policies aren't in conflict.

    Facebook's notification wording is trying to prevent people from claiming that their recent photographs featuring nudity are artistic in nature...

    While simultaneously Facebook's community standards wording implies that it won't censor "real art"... AKA historical art.

    In other words new art isn't made, only the old is art.

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

  • icon
    JustMe (profile), 6 Jan 2017 @ 3:07am

    Don't forget about

    the cherubs! They are nekkid too and, having sat under the hatrack that is Neptune for all these years, DESERVE equal treatment. CENSOR THE CHERUBS, Mark, censor the cherubs too.

    Equal Treatment for Wangs 2017

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

  • identicon
    Fascismbook sucks, 13 Jan 2017 @ 5:02pm

    fascistbook sucks

    Facebook sucks

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


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