Facebook Taking Down Post-Mastectomy Photos, Cancer Survivors Upset

Cassie Boss - Author

Jun. 16 2013, Updated 11:29 a.m. ET

Breast cancer is a scary topic for anyone, and sometimes finding help and support from others can prove to be a challenging experience. For some, like Scorchy Barrington of New York, inspiration comes from online programs/groups.

Programs such as the SCAR Project bring a lot of men and women who suffer with breast cancer hope and strength to deal with their illnesses.

The SCAR Project is a series of large-scale portraits of young breast cancer survivors.

The photos are shot by David Jay, and the website and Facebook community page both feature images of men and women proudly displaying their post-mastectomy scars.

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Christina Farr of Venturebeatsaid that “Facebook has been systematically removing the images, even banning Jay from posting for 30 days” because many of his photos have either been flagged as porn.

Facebook has a very strict ban on nudity and “will remove photographs of exposed breasts.”

What has people confused is that Facebook openly admits that they do allow post-mastectomy photos.

Facebook goes on to say the following on their site:

“Photos with fully exposed breasts, particularly if they’re unaffected by surgery, do violate Facebook’s Terms. These policies are based on the same standards which apply to television and print media, and that govern sites with a significant number of young people.”

Barrington wrote in a petition address to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg:

“Photos like those included in The SCAR Project help me feel a little less alone in what I’m going through. With so many young women facing breast cancer diagnoses, I know these photos give them hope, too,”

Barrington continues on to say that “by removing the photos, Facebook is sending us a message that our struggle with this disease should be kept in the dark.”

Facebook’s policy team issued the following comment to VentureBeat:

“We have long allowed mastectomy photos to be shared on Facebook, as well as educational and scientific photos of the human body and photos of women breastfeeding.

We only review or remove photos after they have been reported to us by people who see the images in their News Feeds or otherwise discover them.

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On occasion, we may remove a photo showing mastectomy scarring either by mistake, as our teams review millions of pieces of content daily, or because a photo has violated our terms for other reasons.

As a reminder, our terms stipulate that we generally do not allow nudity, with some exceptions as laid out above and here, consistent with other platforms that have many young users.”

It would seem like there are quite a few crossed signals going on with the Facebook review teams. Mastectomy is a popular topic of discussion as of late, especially with Angelina Jolie’s recent surgery choices.

Some post-mastectomy photos include images of exposed breasts, and some don’t. How should Facebook be handling this controversy over what is deemed acceptable and what isn’t without offending the cancer survivors?

[Image via David Jay // SCAR Project]


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