A Bushwick Art Gallery was Banned from Facebook for posting 1920’s William Mortensen Nudes
n.b. this article intends to be both humorous and informative.
From Facebook’s very own current COMMUNITY STANDARDS page:
“We remove photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks. We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring. We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.”
Stephen Romano Gallery received notice Sunday evening it was banned from posting and messaging on Facebook for 7 days for posting works of art by William Mortensen from the 1920’s as part of the Facebook Nudity Friday organized by art historian Kathy Schnapper and artists Stephen Pusey and Grace Graupe-Pillard.
According to an article on HYPERALLERGIC by Claire Voon, the event “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.”
“This is something like the fourth or fifth time I have been banned from Facebook for posting William Mortensen’s images. Each time I appeal, they ignore me, the ban runs it’s course, and we’re back to square one, without resolution.” Said Stephen Romano, owner of the Stephen Romano Gallery in Brooklyn which mounted an ambitious retrospective of the art of William Mortensen in 2014, which received much critical acclaim. The Gallery has also loaned works by Mortensen, a historically acknowledged photographic artist to many venues such as Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn.
“One of the very works the gallery was banned for posting was in an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art a couple of years ago” said Stephen. “That’s a friendly venue, they weren’t any warning signs that I saw that said this was indecent material or even required discretion. Facebook, which has positioned itself as vehicle for communication has a given itself too much autonomy here in my opinion. It hands out a punishment – in the form of a ban – without any attempt to allow the user to give their side of the story, you are left without any mechanism to speak for yourself, or to defend your actions, other than “If you think you’re seeing this by mistake, please let us know.”
“It’s completely totalitarian in my view. How crazy that a corporation sets the moral standard and acts as judge and jury and executioner, this is not in the interest of it’s users. This is the part that really bothers me, the implications of handing over what is in it’s spirit and essence a right protected and guaranteed as constitutional Amendment to Facebook via a user agreement.”
What Romano is referring to is that the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Which reads:
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”
“So, what i am annoyed with, and question highly is where does Facebook get it’s sense of self entitlement, to the extent that it can conduct it’s operations in contradiction to a constitutional amendment? Does it think it’s user base is SO DEPENDED UPON IT THAT IT WILL GIVE UP CONSTITUTION RIGHTS TO STAY WITHIN THE SOCIAL NETWORK? Where does that arrogance, that they feel enabled to do that to 217 Million American Facebook users, where does come from?” froths Romano.
“The first thing they asked me to do was to confirm my identity by uploading a state ID. I was very concerned about this, it had a “Show us your papers” Gestapo feel to it, I did it against my better judgement although it completely felt like an intimidation tactic.”
Facebook’s “community standards” which users are directed to consult when handed out a ban, states “In order to treat people fairly and respond to reports quickly, it is essential that we have policies in place that our global teams can apply uniformly and easily when reviewing content. As a result, our policies can sometimes be more blunt than we would like and restrict content shared for legitimate purposes. We are always working to get better at evaluating this content and enforcing our standards.”
“This is not a fair way to treat user” says Romano “It is an easy way for FB to expedite and process reports. When they say that their “Global team” reviews content, what of training do they have? Last i heard it was some company in Manila that does this, maybe it’s different now, but I havent heard that.” Regardless the community standards which I am being referred to for clarity is a bunch of word smithing , it doesnt help anything. ”
According to an article in Wired magazine from 2011, the most recent reliable information on the subject we could find, FB farms out it’s censorship, or “content moderation”, to a company called TaskUs in Manila who make “500 per month by the end of (a) three-and-a-half-year tenure”. Looking at the company’s website, FB is not listed as a client.
“Don’t be intimidated by the censors,” Graupe-Pillard urged in the article in Hyperallergic. “Perhaps [Facebook] will finally understand that nude images in ART are not immoral and we will be able to confront anonymous reporting.”
Asked if he was over reacting to being issued a ban after fair warning Romano responded “being banned from posting and messaging and whatever else on FB is not the issue, i expected some form of retribution for participating in full frontal Friday or whatever it was called. Sure, it’s a drag, I rely on FB for messaging and posting about gallery activities and press we get, maybe a bit too much, but FB is a good global billboard on which we broadcast out activities and remain informed. Facebook is how I found out that both David Bowie had died and that my wife was pregnant again. Thankfully one of those turned out to be a publicity stunt for attention.”
“What bothers me is the process, FB are being assholes, it has such a douchey underbelly. It’s like if i went to a demonstration, but did something that is clearly within my rights according to their guidelines, then they not even change the rules but give a contracted employee the power to use their discretion (again, any training there?) to charge me with an offense, be judge, jury and executioner while not allowing me to defend myself. What is this modeled on? China FFS?”
“We shouldn’t stand for this. I’s like to tell Mark Zuckerberg and co to take this model of tyranny and shove it up their asses.”
- The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed – WIRED Magazine
- HYPERALLERGIC – In Response to Censorship, Artists Incite Users to Flood Facebook with Nudity
- by Claire Voon
this article appears also on Lexicon.mag