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Breast cancer survivors challenge Facebook's nudity policy

Protesters claim Facebook is deleting portraits of breast cancer survivors with mastectomy scars.

After coming under fire in recent weeks for allowing anti-woman sentiment to flourish on the site, Facebook is now facing the heat from a group of breast cancer survivors accusing the social networking site of removing content that could help women.

Photographer David Jay has been working on a series of portraits of breast cancer survivors called The Scar Project for the last seven years, and has posted his images in Facebook for the last five. Facebook has deleted some of Jay's photos in the past and suspended his account for 30 days for violating the site's nudity policy. But Jay decided to use actress Angelina Jolie's recent mastectomy story to highlight The Scar Project, reposting dozens of old portraits. Some of those photos were deleted within days, and Jay was again suspended.

One of Jay's readers, a breast cancer warrior named Scorchy Barrington, recently started a Change.org petition asking Facebook to rethink its policy on photos of women showing their mastectomy scars. More than 8000 supporters backed Barrington's petition.

Facebook's policy allows post-mastectomy photos that don't show fully exposed breasts. That means no nipples allowed. Facebook says its policy is similar to that of major TV networks and print news organizations and is intended to protect the site's large number of teen users.

No stranger to controversy

Facebook is no stranger to controversy when it comes to photo censorship: Breastfeeding mothers have long criticized the company for deleting breastfeeding images. In 2012, the social networking service clarified its policy on breastfeeding photos, which allows the images as long as they don't show a "fully exposed breast where the child is not actively engaged in nursing."

It doesn't look like Facebook will change its policies prohibiting nipples in photos, but Jay said the petition sparked a conversation with the company.

"I tried to be very careful in the images I posted, but there's no getting around the honesty in the images on The Scar Project," Jay told TechHive. "I don't think anyone moderately educated and emotionally evolved would find anything sexual, offensive, or pornographic about the images on The Scar Project."

Someone must have found them offensive, because Facebook doesn't keep track of every photo posted to its site. The network relies on users to report inappropriate content. Facebook employees then evaluate the photos.

"The problem here is nipple," Jay says. "We're terrified, apparently, of a woman's breasts. Somehow the nipple signifies the end of the world."


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