The Age of Free Nipples Versus Fake News
By Lina Abascal
April 2, 2018
Facebook doesn’t care about you. And it hasn’t cared about women especially for a long time.
Facebook is not cool. These days, its technological innovations aren’t particularly interesting or revolutionary. (Who the hell is using Stories?) And yet two billion of us on Earth (population: seven billion) are on it. We seem to be on it mostly for that exact reason. Because everyone is. It’s the bottom of the barrel, the public bus of social networks, for the every-man, and for many, a primary form of communication. For brands, it’s a top place to access fans and target them with content and ads. They’ve locked us in.
For an openly liberal company, its loudest users and most controversial headlines seem directly against its ethos, from the rampant rise of fake news during the 2016 election, to right-leaning comment trolls and harassers roaming free on the newsfeed, to most recently, the leak of more than 50 million users’ data to political strategy firm Cambridge Analytica, which has ties to President Trump’s campaign.
Women in particular are treated differently by Facebook. Exercising any level of sexual liberation, displaying subtle sexiness in your content or even just having a body is often rebuked with censorship.
Less loud in the news, but an issue at hand for many communities is Facebook’s “real name” policy, especially as it pertains to trans and queer people, and the inconsistent monitoring of what is perceived as “sexual content” posted by women.
For women, the platform’s aim to be a safe-for-work site sometimes results in unexplained censorship via the removal of users’ content or the freezing of their accounts. In its terms of service, Facebook notes content that is “hate speech, threatening, or pornographic, incites violence, or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence” is not allowed. Nor is it on most platforms (sans Tumblr and Twitter, which allow pornographic content). But it isn’t pornography, or even artful nudity, that is getting many accounts frozen. It’s cleavage, or sometimes less.
Carmine Black, a recreational pole dancer, posts clothed videos of her practicing her routines on Facebook and has frequently had her content deleted with no notice.
“In each instance, I was dancing provocatively on a pole. I was not nude, nor was I exposing my genitals or nipples,” she says.
Whether her posts were flagged by another user or detected by Facebook itself, upon review, they do not violate the terms of service. Each time this happened, Black was not given a time period to wait before getting her account back, and according to her, it varied from one to three weeks. Black is considering moving to a platform that aligns more with her values,
“my values respect the idea of supporting the needs of the people who support me. Whether it be respecting someone’s privacy, or not using something shared in confidence to make a profit. I don’t think Facebook aligns with this perspective.” She says she’s considering Vero, but has yet to fully move off of Facebook.
Personal content aside, Facebook’s sexual repression extends to its ads. Shannon Owens, a marketer in Los Angeles says
“I’ve had clients’ ads flagged and not able to run because it showed ‘too much cleavage’ from the model in the ad wearing a V-neck.”
The ability to detect the tiniest pixel of nipple, but inability to detect the spreading of fake news or protect users’ data is the most literal reflection of the platform’s warped priorities and misuse of its world-leading technology.
With the recent hoard of Facebook users deleting their accounts in a #DeleteFacebook campaign, Facebook knows it fucked up. In an embarrassing effort to put a bandage over the issues, the company has done a press campaign around new features that make it easier to view the massive amount of data it has been collecting for each individual user. If you navigate through a series of buttons, you can get a data dump of yourself emailed to your Facebook email. I did it, and it’s a lot less revealing than you may be thinking. What you do see is every status you’ve ever posted. What you don’t see is how firms like Cambridge Analytica analyze that data to make assumptions about your personality and behaviors to target you. That’s the scary stuff. I didn’t need almost a gigabyte of Drake lyric statuses.
Allegedly, none of this had anything to do with Elon Musk hopping on the #DeleteFacebook train. He stated in a tweet that it simply gave him the “willies” and deleted his own accounts and those of Tesla and SpaceX, losing more than five million fans across the pages.
Riding the hype train, but with good reason, the chief creative officer of this very website, Cooper Hefner, has deleted the Playboy Facebook page and with that more than 25 million fans to serve ads and promote articles like this one to.
“Facebook’s content guidelines and corporate policies continue contradicting our values. We’ve tried to craft our voice for the platform, which in our opinion continues to be sexually repressive,” Hefner announced in a tweet.
While Facebook’s policing of women’s bodies on an unexplained, case-by-case basis has been happening for years, the data breach and effect on the election is the last straw for many.
It’s a chicken-and-egg situation. Facebook is the platform, we are the product. We don’t need Facebook, Facebook needs us. But Facebook has convinced us that we need it, even if for me, that is just as a college-party photo archive, a way to message people whose phone numbers I don’t have (then do I really need to speak to them?) or to semi-successfully promote my own work. While I understand the sentiment behind the #DeleteFacebook movement, they’ve done a number on me, and it can feel like my efforts will be pointless. If you’re not Tesla or Playboy, will proving a point even be worth the inconvenience to yourself?
At this rate, they may ban me for some boob before I even get the chance to delete.