Facebook’s independent Oversight Board announced on Tuesday that one of the first cases it will tackle relates to the company’s policies towards breasts and nipples.
But based on documents leaked to VICE News, the members of the Oversight Board will have a tough time navigating what are highly confusing and often absurd policies.
The case coming before the Oversight Board relates to a user in Brazil who posted a picture on Facebook-owned Instagram to raise awareness about signs of breast cancer.
The picture contained a collage of eight photographs showing breast cancer symptoms with corresponding explanations of the symptoms underneath.
Five of the photographs included visible and uncovered female nipples, according to the Oversight Board’s summary of the case. The post has a pink background, and the user said it was shared as part of the national "Pink October" campaign for the prevention of breast cancer.
Facebook said it removed the post for violating its policy on adult nudity and sexual activity.
But Facebook’s policy on breasts and nipples has long been a source of controversy as activists pointed out that the company’s ban on female nipples except under certain circumstances such as breastfeeding makes no sense considering it accepts male nipples under all circumstances.
But that’s not the only confusing part of Facebook’s policy. In October, Facebook updated its "breast squeezing policy." Internal documents obtained by VICE News explain exactly what's allowed and what's not. In typical Facebook fashion, the guidance is extremely specific, very clinical, and also bizarre to see as an official policy document.
The update says the policy “surrounding the squeezing of female breasts will now be revised after numerous external feedback on the over-enforcement of such content that has impacted media by body-positive activists.”
The document, titled "Clarify Grabbing Covering in Breast Squeezing Policy," has a question that asks "What are the indicators of female breast squeezing?"
“Squeezing occurs when: There is clear indentation (e.g. dents, imprints, depressions, marks, etc.) on the female breast or clothing caused by curved fingers in a grabbing motion AND there is a clear shape change of the breast by curved fingers in a grabbing motion,” the policy document says.
The policy gets very specific about what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to breast-squeezing.
“Covering, cupping, or pressing the breast with palms or straight fingers,” is fine, so long as there is “no grabbing motion on the female breast or clothing.”
Facebook also points out it will allow pictures where palms are curved “depending on the size or shape of the breast” but only if the fingers are “not in a curved grabbing motion.”
Squeezing breasts with another part of the body, or some clothing “e.g. using straps to pull breasts together” is fine, and "If fully clothed the imagery only violates if another person is present in the imagery squeezing the female breast.”
Facebook told VICE News that it disagreed with the characterization of the rules as confusing.
“We worked for months with body positivity experts to develop a more comprehensive and inclusive policy, so it’s fairly disappointing to see that work characterized this way,” a spokesperson said in an email.