Stop Enabling Censorship of Mastectomy Photos
In 2013, Facebook made a much-needed and monumental change to its policy regarding mastectomy photos. It was updated to state:
"We agree that undergoing a mastectomy is a life-changing experience and that sharing photos can help raise awareness about breast cancer and support the men and women facing a diagnosis, undergoing treatment or living with the scars of cancer. The vast majority of these kinds of photos are compliant with our policies."
Thank you. This change helped more readily facilitate the mission of each individual, group and page who devote much of their lives to the support and encouragement of the above individuals. However, we now come to you imploring you to partner with us yet again to update the process in which the photographs on our personal profiles and public pages are handled when they are reported, as they are in line with Facebook’s current photo policy. Numerous advocates in the breast cancer community are facing harassment, repeated attacks and continuous bullying, namely in the unwarranted reports of pictures and posts and we desperately need change.
Those of us who put ourselves out there publicly by sharing intimate posts and photos of this nature are purposefully choosing to make ourselves vulnerable. We are doing whatever we can to shine a light for those coming behind who are facing similar situations - we understand the potential fear, loneliness and difficult decisions being made and we are trying to help bring comfort, support and encouragement while facilitating the building of community. While your policy would seem to protect us, the process for handling photo complaints does the opposite in actuality.
Any photo can be reported anonymously at any time. I have had numerous photographs reported which I was ultimately told by Facebook did NOT violate your community standards. When a photo is reported, I am sent a notification so that I know what photo and on what grounds it was reported (in my case it has always been for “nudity”). At that point, I have the option of removing said photo, or allowing your staff to review it and determine whether or not it violates the policy and would therefore be removed. Because I am aware it is within the policy, I choose to have it reviewed by Facebook and I later receive a notice stating the picture has not been removed because it “does not violate community standards of decency.”
However, I never know who reported the photo unfairly, and so I cannot stop them from continuing to report photos egregiously. Here’s the more important part: your process seems to have a limit to the number of reports allowed against the profile or page - enough of these false reports and you shut down our accounts! And since reports are always made anonymously, the person doing the reporting (even though it does NOT conflict with the policy!) is free to go on harassing in this way until they accomplish getting our accounts shut down. This must stop! In your efforts to enable those making reports to remain anonymous, you are also enabling others to continuously target and harass people. In effect, you are sanctioning this harassment and bullying.
The people we are serving are already in precarious and vulnerable states. Treatment, surgeries and ongoing developments in their disease can often mean that Facebook is the ONLY readily-available source of support, encouragement, and camaraderie. When our pages and profiles are frozen and potentially shut down this causes an ENORMOUS amount of stress. Both to the owner of the page/profile but also, even more importantly, to the people we are trying to reach. We are demanding change because we want to stop this unnecessary disruption and stress.
We are using this petition as a method to try to reach you and your staff. We’ve written numerous open letters about this topic, and want to ensure you are hearing our collectively-raised voices. The President of the non-profit METAvivor.org wrote to you here. Blogger and activist Beth Caldwell’s letter to you was even picked up by Huffington Post. The founder of Flat & Fabulous wrote to you here. It’s noteworthy that many of these writers are stage IV (read: terminal) cancer patients, yet we spend our limited time writing to you. This is how passionate we all feel about what is happening, and about the impact it is having on our mission and the community as a whole.
We can all agree that these pictures do not violate your standards, and that the reporting of them steals time away from advocates that could otherwise be spent on much more important causes. What we need now is a call to action. We are calling for a more robust and efficient process of handling the reports so your staff deals with these complaints more effectively.
Here are some suggestions for how to change your handling of photo reports:
1.) When a photo or post is reported, the person whose account contains that photo or post MUST have the option of blocking the person reporting them. This option should be available during the two steps of the process; first when the person is notified of the report, and secondly, when they are informed of the outcome of that review.
2.) Facebook users should not be allowed to target users, nor should they be allowed to make egregious claims constantly. Your staff needs to instate and enforce guidelines for how many reports a user may make, especially when the photos being reported are CLEARLY within guidelines. In other words, you need to prevent the reporting function from being used as the vehicle for bullying others.
3.) Given that a number of reports are obviously petty and will amount to nothing, perhaps you can train your team to more readily dismiss claims against photos that obviously do not violate standards. In addition, we need to be ensured that the reports which are not justified do NOT result in the freezing or shutting down of our accounts because we haven’t actually done anything against Facebook policy. If you need help with the issue of breast cancer photos specifically, there are many among our ranks who can help with that job.
It is important that we have safety mechanisms in place that allow users to report when posts are inappropriate. However, we cannot let people abuse this reporting system to the point of bullying other users. Mark Zuckerberg, you have made it clear in your actions and development of Facebook that you view your product as a vehicle for furthering the efforts of humanity and allowing us to reach each other in all corners of the world. We need effective changes to the policies to facilitate us in joining you in this effort.
We implore you to act expediently and with compassion for the many women whose accounts are being unjustly shut down right now. Give us the tools we need to continue to advocate for women battling breast cancer.
For more information, read about the petition and its effects here:
And get involved with a project designed to protect these images in order to make them available to those who are seeking info and pictures to empower themselves:
Stop Censoring Mastectomy and Reconstruction Photos
Flattopper Pride started this petition with a single signature, and now has 4,488 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.