Facebook unmoved by breastfeeding protest
Facebook isn't budging against pressure from lactivists to let them post pictures of children breastfeeding. When I wrote this story about the approaching Dec. 27 protest online of the popular social networking site's policy of deleting photos of babies being nursed, some 61,000 people had signed the site's online petition called "Hey Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene." When I checked Tuesday afternoon, the number had ballooned to more than 142,000. The first five days of the year, the group was getting 10,000 new members a day.
That's about the number of people who defiantly posted breastfeeding pictures online that day. There was artwork of Mary nursing Jesus, of cows nursing their calves and lots of Mommas feeding their babies, Stephanie Knapp Muir, one of the organizers, told me. But she was peppered with complaints that many had their photos removed and a terse letter from Facebook warning them not to do it again or risk losing their membership to the site.
Facebook is standing firm on the policy, a spokesman says almost two weeks after the story ate up the Mommy blogs and news wires worldwide. Facebook says it has no problem with breastfeeding, but that photos showing nipples are considered obscene and can be removed, especially if someone complains about them. With users as young as 13 allowed on the site, the company feels it is not public space, but protected private property.
Muir calls the company’s policy unfair toward women, who have the legal right in most states, including Florida, to breastfeed in public.
"We understand that children as young as 13 are permitted to use the site, and feel that if those young users should happen to come across a picture of a mother breastfeeding, it would be a far more positive and healthy exposure for them than the myriad other photos (including paid advertisements on the site) which contain far more explicit images of women's bodies, many of which are in a sexual context."
With news sites and blogs around the world weighing in on the controversy, it doesn't seem like it's going to die out. But Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt said the company has no plans to change the policy. "The best thing users can do is follow the policy and make sure their breastfeeding photos do not show nudity,'' Schnitt said. "In addition, since we’re not proactively looking for these photos, if users limit access to people who won’t complain, we won’t really know about them."
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne
[Photo: That's Kelli Roman, one of the women who joined in the Facebook protest, who posted this photo on her Facebook page that shows her breastfeeding her daughter Ivy. She says it was removed from the site even though it does not show her nipple.]