Feeds

Facebook pulls naked smutty filth from NY Academy of Art page

Social network's curators take down Andy Warhol school paintings

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Facebook is in the doghouse again – and this time it is none other than the New York Academy of Art taking them to task for their online censoriousness.

The dispute has rumbled onward in the Academy's official blog since the end of January, when Facebook notified the administrator of the Academy's official Facebook page that the social network was removing a drawing by Steven Assael – on the grounds that it violated terms and conditions.

This was followed by a block on the Academy uploading ANY image for seven days – presumably on the grounds that they were known repeat offenders.

The fact that this work is currently in an exhibition curated by the Academy and shown at the Eden Rock Gallery in St Barths was no defence. It included nudity – and that was that.

This did not go down well with the art school, which came back with some polite fighting talk. The school wrote: "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.

"If Facebook is a new online Salon de Paris, where a faceless group of 'curators' determine what artwork the public should see, well then please consider our website the Salon de Refusés!"

Tempting fate, the Academy also asked: "If it begins with Steven Assael, a modern master, who's next?"

Facebook promptly answered that question by removing works from the accounts of two more Academy alumni – Richard Scott and John Wellington.

The debate continued on the Academy site, with two recognisable sides swiftly emerging. On the one hand, it is Facebook’s site and the social network gets to make the rules. On the other, contributors echoed points made in El Reg yesterday, responding to Facebook’s recent ban on a bdsm website – Collared (NSFW).

The second group, commenting on the Academy's site, argued that Facebook’s dominant position online means it bears a heavier responsibility than "any old website": if Facebook chooses to impose a particular standard, be it moral, aesthetic or other, that decision has significant cultural clout.

This is the same complaint that could be heard from the administrator of the Collared page: if they wish to apply rules, could they please be transparent and consistent.

As one poster on the art school's site put it: "Fans of both artists have speculated on the protocol used for determining which images are removed.

"From 'algorhythmic [sic] programming' to a 'facebook censor control department' or even 'a titty and crotch recognition program and it's nothing personal', and finally an inculpable '[facebook] depends on users [to report] violations', the criteria that surrounds how the images are 'curated' seems indeterminable."

As always, Facebook responded swiftly with an apology and a re-instatement. Facebook spokesman Simon Axten explained that the site bans nude photographs, but the company has "an unwritten policy" that allows drawings or sculptures of nudes. The company only reviews images following a complaint – and sometimes gets things wrong.

Whether this will satisfy the various groups that Facebook has offended of late – including breastfeeding mums and would-be collared slaves – is a moot point. There can be no doubt that balancing the rights of those who would wish Facebook to be a child-friendly "safe" environment against those with lesser propensity to be offended is an important, but thankless, task.

However, users are not happy with the proliferation of "unwritten policies". Responding to complaints about the removal of the Collared page, a spokeswoman told us yesterday that "Fetish content is not allowed on Facebook". That may be so – but that particular clause doesn't seem to be anywhere in the T&Cs.

Increasing pressure from government for internet imagery to be censored along lines analogous to film censorship means that far from going away, this is a question that will become more prominent in the coming months.

On the evidence to date, Facebook have yet to come up with a workable solution. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more
Oh yeah ... and a 30% cut for Amazon to seal the deal
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London
Plus: Almost NOBODY uses pay-by-bonk on buses - Visa
Twitch rich as Google flicks $1bn hitch switch, claims snitch
Gameplay streaming biz and search king refuse to deny fresh gobble rumors
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.