Mette Gjerskov's Facebook post (screenshot via Mette Gjerskov/Facebook)

Mette Gjerskov’s Facebook post (screenshot via Mette Gjerskov/Facebook)

For more than a century, Edvard Eriksen’s bronze statue of “The Little Mermaid” has perched quietly on a waterside rock in Copenhagen, offending virtually no one. It’s the country’s most photographed statue, snapped some 5 million times every year. According to Facebook, though, photos of this bronze rendering of a fairy tale character are too obscene to post on the social media site, as one Danish politician recently learned.

This past week, Facebook prohibited social democrat MP Mette Gjerskov from posting an image of “The Little Mermaid” on her page because it featured “too much bare skin or sexual undertones.” This, despite Facebook’s community standards policies explicitly stating the site “allows photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.” Apparently bronze mermaid boobs are an exception.

When Gjerskov appealed to Facebook, the site reversed its decision and agreed to free the mermaid nipple. (It’s worth noting that Eriksen’s statue is arguably less risque than Disney’s hypersexualized but Facebook-condoned rendering of the Little Mermaid character as “a sexy little honey-bunch with a double-scallop-shell bra and a mane of red hair tossed in tumble-out-of-bed Southern California salon style,” as Michael Wilmington described the cartoon in the Los Angeles Times.)

Once clear of Facebook’s overzealous censors, the Danish politician ran into another hurdle when she tried to post an image of the sculpture on her blog, which she writes for the Danish public news station TV2 — it became a potential copyright violation. Eriksen’s family is notoriously aggressive about enforcing the statue’s copyright and has been known to sue media outlets for displaying or broadcasting images of it.

“It turns out that you can’t take photos [of the artwork] … without generous payment to the artist’s heirs. It’s the law — which Parliament adopted,” Gjerskov wrote.

This is only the latest in a slew of Facebook censorship cases that have sparked outrage among the social media site’s users. In 2011, for example, a French teacher had his Facebook account suspended after posting a photo of Gustave Courbet’s painting “L’Origine du Monde” (1866), which the site’s moderators took for pornography. This sparked a four-year (and counting) legal battle.

And back in 2013, Hyperallergic itself was Facebook censored for posting an article that included artist Kate Durbin’s photo of a woman’s exposed butt. Despite this and other brushes with Facebook law, we opted against censor-barring the nipples of “The Little Mermaid” in this article, because we’re just that transgressive.

h/t CPH Post 

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering arts and culture. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Baffler, The Village Voice, and elsewhere.

5 replies on “Facebook Censors Photo of Copenhagen’s Beloved Little Mermaid Statue”

  1. I can’t help but chuckle. In a world with serious social issues, why does anyone have the time to go out of their way to censor art? Maybe the self-appointed moral police should spend more time doing something actually useful, like helping the less fortunate.

    Besides, what has a bronze mermaid or a painting done that is less forgivable than the incredibly graphic and stomach-churning scenes in shows like N.C.I.S. — I sense a double standard here.

  2. Having been unable to read, much less understand the point of, movie reviews when Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” was released, thank you for sharing that LA Times review.

  3. Facebook’s moderation is so inconsistent and nonsensical at times. I reported someone who said that all special needs children needed to be killed and put out of their caretakers’ misery, and I got a robotic reply in return that said that the post did not break any rules. HOWEVER, one of my posts was deleted because I dared to say that there was no such thing as racism against white people. 😛

  4. Five years ago I kept trying to upload Guido Reni’s print of “Venus Attired by the Graces” to the George Glazer Gallery Facebook page and was baffled by why it seemed to be blocked. So I gave them all red bikinis, and bingo, up it went. I understand why they want to protect users from unwanted porn experiences, but this seemed silly, as does the Little Mermaid issue.

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