The Swedish Cancer Society was just trying to spread awareness on how to conduct breast exams, but instead it ran afoul of Facebook’s censorship laws. The SCS’s original video featured illustrated breasts and instructions on how to conduct self-exams. Unfortunately, Facebook didn’t think this was an appropriate use of breasts on the social network, so the content was removed. In order to get around the censorship, the non-profit rendered bosoms as boxes to continue its mission of providing information on breast cancer. However, this incident is just another example of the company deeming the female body too taboo for people’s Facebook feeds.
The Guardian reports that Facebook’s explanation for the removal was “Your ad can not market sex products or services nor adults products or services.” Facebook officials eventually apologized for the ban, but the damage was already done. This incident joins a number of other times Facebook has taken down content related to the female body.
In September, the social network censored the infamous “napalm girl” photo from the Vietnam War because it depicted a young child nude. It eventually revised its decision. But Facebook has notoriously become a no-breast zone. Breastfeeding pictures are permissable as long as there’s no visible nipple and breasts used for pieces of artwork have also landed users in trouble.
All too often, anything associated with breasts is automatically deemed inappropriate due to the hypersexualization of the body parts. They’re almost always covered up, even in spaces like beaches where men can feel free to go shirtless. Companies and society alike still view breasts as innately sexual, instead of as parts of the human anatomy.
The Swedish Cancer Society penned an open letter to Facebook on Thursday. The organization wrote, “We understand that you have to have rules about the content published on your platform. But you must also understand that one of our main tasks is to disseminate important information about cancer — in this case breast cancer.”
There’s no doubt that Facebook will continue to make the mistake of removing bosom-related content even when it’s in a pertinent context like spreading awareness. But calling the social network out whenever that happens begins the process of fixing bigger biases against breasts.