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Some of the works posted to the Facebook Nudity Day event page (screenshot via Facebook)

If you’ve ever experienced the frustration of having your Facebook account disabled after posting a nude work of art, mark January 14 as your new favorite holiday: Facebook Nudity Day. The event, organized by art historian Kathy Schnapper and artists Stephen Pusey and Grace Graupe-Pillard, calls for Facebook users to post an artwork depicting the naked body to protest the social media website’s “continuing censorship of artists, curators and critics who have been censored for posting art and images that depict the nude human body.” The flooding of Facebook with photographs, paintings, drawings, and all other forms of art represents an action of solidarity against an absurd form of censorship that pretty much occurs on a daily basis.

“Don’t be intimidated by the censors,” Graupe-Pillard urged. “Perhaps [Facebook] will finally understand that nude images in ART are not immoral and we will be able to confront anonymous reporting.”

Users — largely artists — participating in Facebook Nudity Day have been publicly posting since this morning a diverse array of works, from Egon Schiele’s painting of himself masturbating and a phallic photograph by Robert Mapplethorpe to Japanese erotic prints and the accursed Courbet. Many of these posts are still live as of press time, but some users have already reported suspensions. An attempt to post Michelangelo’s David allegedly resulted in a user getting blocked, while Graupe-Pillard expressed exasperation over being reported for posting a painting of a fully frontal nude woman. Pusey told Hyperallergic that administrators also removed an image of Man Ray’s “Reclining Nude.”

By now, it’s rather well known that Facebook has a long and overly cautious tradition of censoring such works, tending to either remove the post it finds overly titillating or suspend the user responsible for a few days. French teacher Frédéric Durand-Baïssas’ ongoing legal battle with the social network exemplifies its problematic stance toward flesh-filled images. Durand-Baïssas is seeking damages after the site suspended him for a post showing Gustave Courbet’s “l’Origine du Monde” (1866). Artists using their profile pages to share their own works often have to be wary of being flagged. The nude art-loving critic Jerry Saltz felt Facebook’s wrath just yesterday. This very website, too, has had access to our Facebook page restricted because of a post of a photograph by Kate Durbin, found guilty due to an exposed butt, and, more recently, of a Japanese erotic woodblock print from 1814Not even Edvard Eriksen’s bronze figure of “The Little Mermaid” is innocent enough to escape censorship.

(screenshot via @jerrysaltz/Twitter)

The social media company does acknowledge that it is aware that nude images often fall under the category of art, and explains in its community standards that it allows “photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures. Restrictions on the display of both nudity and sexual activity also apply to digitally created content unless the content is posted for educational, humorous, or satirical purposes.

“Our policies can sometimes be more blunt than we would like,” the guide notes, “and restrict content shared for legitimate purposes.”

The organizers of Facebook Nudity Day are registering any incidents of censorship by asking anyone whose posts get deleted or account gets blocked to send them an email that includes a description of the image. (Electronic Frontier Foundation also recently launched Online Censorship, a website to report similar instances of censorship.) Once gathered, that information may provide greater insight into Facebook’s tendency toward the arbitrary and senseless erasure of visual art.

“I value Facebook as a means of communicating with other artists, curators, critics, and writers, participating in discussions and learning of their exhibitions, publications, and events,” Pusey told Hyperallergic. “It is important to me that it is an environment in which we can freely exchange ideas and images without fear of censorship and having our
accounts summarily removed by the FB powers that be. If we are complacent about this we will lose our liberty and certainly, Facebook will lose the participation of its intellectual content providers.”

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Claire Voon

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...

13 replies on “In Response to Censorship, Artists Incite Users to Flood Facebook with Nudity”

  1. I can’t find it now but I read a story about a group of moralizing do-gooders with too much spare time who spend hours on Facebook reporting images of nudity with little regard to context or necessity. This despite the fact that they could easily be spending that time flagging images on Google search for exclusion from safe-search, satisfying their need to “think of the children” while still maintaining some semblance of freedom of expression.

  2. Facebook has zero problem allowing bigoted and violent pictures in public as well as private pages. Facebook turns around and concern-trolls pictures of art nudes because lil chilluns’ heads will explode.

  3. The Vintage Sleaze Facebook page has over 600,000 followers and has never been censored. The site shows nary a nipple, but it manages to LOOK filthy and that is the key. Just like the paperback and pulp art from the 1950s and early 1960s (which appear often on the page) the whole idea is to get as close as you can to meeting that undefinable standard of obscenity. Even the Supreme Court gave up trying to define it…why should we EVER expect Facebook to? The Vintage Sleaze site is limited to 18 and over, a setting any page can apply. That helps. So would avoiding posts about contemporary artists who choose only to shock, I suppose. They never do anyway. Another option is to Link off-site to what might be offensive to others. Some of the art shown can be a “teaser” to full content off Facebook. Let’s face it…one has to open a door to a gallery. A click to your content can often suffice. Jim Linderman

  4. Thing is, Facebook isnt a democracy. It’s a privately owned place, so it comes down to their site, their rules. I hate to sound flip about it, but when we go to FB, we know what we’re getting into, so the idea of someone suing for damages because they cant post L’Oerigine seems a little disingenuous at best.

    Dont misunderstand: I agree that their stance on art-related nudity is, to be sure, a short sighted. I’ve had some of my own stuff reported as crossing a line. It doesnt bother me, because there are countless other places I can post the work and then just link to it on FB. But suing for damages? Seriously? I”m sorry, that makes zero sense.

    Bottom line, for me anyway: if I go to FB to show off my work, I post the general and link to the more potentially questionable. It’s no big deal because the Internet is a really big place. And yes, when it comes to things like the David or the Little Mermaid, FB needs to rethink the policy. Absolutely no debate needed there. Problem is, people would see that and think it’s okay to cross the line in far more egregious ways — remember, we’re talking FB users here, folks. It’s unfortunate that FB has to even have such a line in the sand, but when you consider what they’re up against in some of their user base, it’s no doubt erring on the side of reasonable caution.

    Just my 0.02. YRMV.

    1. Yes. And you are not being flip. This is the sort of analytical, clear-thinking response that is far too seldom expressed.

      The more typical comments seem to come more typically from the gut — a rather messy place, full of stuff that’s not been fully digested. “Mind over matter” can go a long way, and I appreciate what you have written.

  5. The “community standards” hypocrisy at facebook is mind boggling.
    Someone put up a prank page for a 26 year old who was arrested on serious child kidnapping and abuse charges but the page shows the address of his elderly father which could result in the father or his house being targeted. Facebook has not taken down the prank page although I’ve asked them twice to investigate and remove it.
    Additionally when someone wrote under a news article on fb that “They should fry that fat egg roll” (the accused man is Asian-American) I reported it as racist and they said it “did not violate their community standards”.
    But the image for our group show “Body” was taken down in less than 24 hours even though Christopher Stout Gallery paid extra money to have it ‘pushed’. When the ad for the show didn’t appear he reloaded and repaid, FB took the money again and again the ad didn’t appear. When he finally got customer support to reply they said it had been flagged.
    They wasted no time on removing a picture but endangering a 70 year old man isn’t even an issue worth addressing. Even if fb is reflecting our own community hypocrisy, again, two wrongs don’t make a right.

  6. So proud of our Heroes the Guerrilla Girls, on Colbert Show last night. But I see two phenomena clashing on my FB timeline right now. As our Feminist Art Fighters point out: “Less than 5% of the artists in the modern art sections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art are women, but 85% of the nudes are female”. My search of ‪#‎fbnudityday‬ looks just the same– most of the nudes are women. So, let’s stretch Facebook Nudity Day into Friday with some Male Booty! Turn this thing around! Use the hashtag:
    ‪#‎malenudityday‬

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