Facebook Accidentally Censors Art

Facebook prevented admins who run the Academy of Art Facebook page from uploading images after pulling a photo off the page.

Facebook has gotten into hot water before for being a little too literal with the “no nudity” policy. Now, the social media site is being reprimanded by the New York Academy of Art for “being the final arbiter – and online curator – of the artwork we share with the world.”

Here’s what happened, according to The New York Times: At the end of January, Facebook pulled a photo of a student’s drawing of a woman’s naked upper half from The Academy of Art Facebook page, and then prevented the admins from uploading any additional images for a week.

Although Facebook’s censorship was technically temporary, the school community ‘reeling’ and posted on the Academy’s blog:

It’s not ‘Contemporary vs. Traditional’ or ‘Disegno vs. Colore.’ It’s much more universal and it drives to the heart of the age-old dialogue in visual culture: What is Art?

Just today, Facebook alerted me that an image which violates their Terms of Use was removed from the New York Academy of Art’s facebook page. This image – a drawing by Steven Assael (see below) – is in an exhibition curated by the Academy and shown at the Eden Rock Gallery in St. Barth’s.

As an institution of higher learning with a long tradition of upholding the art world’s ‘traditional values and skills,’ we, the Graduate School of Figurative Art, find it difficult to allow facebook to be the final arbiter – and online curator – of the artwork we share with the world.

The page has more than 2,000 followers, and from what we can tell the wall is updated frequently. Facebook admits now the company made a mistake, according to the Times. Though the site does ban nude photos (imagine if they didn’t?), representatives say the social network has an unwritten policy that allows drawings or sculptures of nudes. Staff review thousands of images every day and occasionally, they make a mistake — and extend apologies like the Academy just received.

It’s understandable, isn’t it? With nearly 600 million users, we can see how you could get trigger happy while blocking nude photos. This isn’t an isolated incident, however. The Times article goes on to list other artists who feel they were a victim of Facebook censorship, this blog has covered similar phenomena.

Do you think Facebook is handling these situations to the best of its ability?