Facebook recently removed a picture of two men kissing, along with the activist event for which it advertised, casting unflattering light on Facebook’s censorship practices and underscoring the difficulty in policing any online community.
Richard Metzger, British television host, created a Facebook page calling for a “kiss-in” protest against an English pub that had kicked out a gay couple for kissing early last week. But his event was deleted by the social network service, which said the post violated its policy against “nudity, or any kind of graphic or sexually suggestive content.”
The photo, however, contains no nudity or graphic content, unless one counts kissing as such.
Facebook says it assigns censorship tasks to people instead of algorithms, suggesting that the page’s deletion wasn’t a mistake. The company declined to comment on its decision, leaving Metzger “perplexed.”
The move highlights the difficulty many companies with vague or “values”-based content policies now face. Apple, for example, was recently attacked for allowing, rather than censoring, an app that portrayed being gay a “curable” condition — after the bad publicity, it banned the app.
Apple also forbids sexual content in its apps, including bikini-clad women — unless they appear in the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit App, which for some reason gets a pass.
Facebook’s move seems like an intolerant blunder, since it’s fair to say that among the 10-plus billion photos on the site, quite a few probably show men and women touching their lips together.
Metzger isn’t the only one who was recently censored for supposedly violating Facebook’s decency policy. A French man used the 19th-century painter Gustav Courbet’s Origin of the World as his profile picture, then had his account deleted on February 27th — his birthday — for posting Courbet’s admitted detailed depiction of a nude woman’s groin.
He is now suing Facebook, demanding compensation for removing his access to 800 friends.