Newsy Nudity

After intense, and Norwegian, backlash, Facebook to change nudity policy

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Facebook caught major flak in September after removing a post featuring a famous Pulitzer-Prize winning photograph from the Vietnam War that depicted a young crying, naked Vietnamese girl running from napalm. The post was originally made by Norway’s largest newspaper and paper of record, Aftenposten, and after that post was removed, a follow-up post made in defiance to Facebook by Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg was also removed.

Facebook released a statement in the aftermath, saying it would make an exception to its nudity rules solely for this famous photograph, but changed their official policies towards “newsworthy” nudity on Friday. In a post, two Facebook executives said that Facebook will be more open-minded regarding nudity in the future—but only if it has news value.

“In the weeks ahead, we’re going to begin allowing more items that people find newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest — even if they might otherwise violate our standards,” VP of global public policy Joel Kaplan and VP of global operations and media partnerships Justin Osofsky wrote. “We will work with our community and partners to explore exactly how to do this, both through new tools and approaches to enforcement. Our intent is to allow more images and stories without posing safety risks or showing graphic images to minors and others who do not want to see them.”

Facebook has often been criticized for seemingly arbitrary and stringent rules on nudity and “offensive material,” specifically regarding news stories. Last year, in a post about the dangers of news organizations using Facebook Instant articles, Gawker’s Tom Scocca detailed a handful of Gawker Media posts that had been flagged for removal by the site, including “a video compiling ice-bucket-challenge mishaps was flagged because one of the women in it was topless, though she was covering her breasts. A post about Miley Cyrus’s bruised butt was flagged, presumably for being about a butt. A post about the question of what role marijuana could have played in the shooting of Michael Brown was flagged, mysteriously, for allegedly being racist.”

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