Of mice and men

That above-mentioned book, by Steinbeck, was challenged many times for its alleged vulgarity. As was “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by D.H. Lawrence. As was “Ulysses” by James Joyce. And the list goes on: many works of art, visual and written, have been seen by the narrow-minded as vulgar.

As was mine today.

I do not of course want to put myself in the same category as those giants, but nevertheless the effect of such narrow thinking is still here. You see, today I was banned from Facebook for 24 hours (so far – it could get worse) for posting an image, in a closed, secret, invitation-only group for professional photographers. An image just like this one, from the same shoot:

Model Kim by Michael Willems

I see this:

Ever noticed that when someone says “Policy”, something bad follows, that you cannot argue with?

Now yes, I do know the Facebook terms of use. In keeping with the 1950s morality that rules much of the religious south, they say there must be no nudity.

That would exclude much renaissance art, of course. But the restriction is not a big deal in practice for images – the way I look at it, nudity must involve something other than arms, legs or shoulders.

And yet I was banned. In a very worrying process: there is no recourse, no debate, no indications of who complained (in a closed secret group like that, the way to get banned is if someone “reports” your image as wrong).

This process is wrong because:

  • As said, is no debate or recourse, no-one to talk to.
  • There is no indication of who your secret accuser is.
  • This process of “report and we basically ban if it offends anyone” drags everything down to the lowest common denominator. Another group I used to be on used to ban people for showing tattoos, since the Lord, in the Bible, apparently prohibits them. This is 2011 USA, not 1500 Europe or Saudi Arabia.
  • Nudity is not wrong! it is beautiful. Violence is wrong – and yet that is allowed all over the place.
  • Not  that there was, in my opinion, nudity here – if even implied nudity is nudity, then heck, we might as well veil our women.
  • Facebook is an important part of a photographers’ business. If Facebook has the right to cancel or ban people with no due process of any sort, that gives them a worrying amount of monopoly power. And absolute power, as we know, corrupts.

But above all – censorship does not work. The people on the closed group all wanted to know more, and all headed to my Tumblr site, which is not run by mice, but by men. And the 150 people in that group can no longer see my image on Facebook, but the many thousands of readers here can now all see it.


13 thoughts on “Of mice and men

  1. It’s only the smallest evil part of the Facebook network, in my opinion.
    The devil is in the details, theses details nobody reads them in the end-user agreement policy; all the material you put on their network belong to them !
    Facebook, I hate those guys…

    So sad the youg generation is already addicted to them, but Facebook is only free as in “free beer”, not as in “free speech”.


  2. “An image just like this one, from the same shoot:” may not be the same as this image in some important way. Certainly the image posted here is pretty tame.
    One group on the Ning network has a no nudes statement in Terms of Use and yet has a forum devoted to nudes. Another group on the same network with about the same Terms of Use claims ‘”No Borders Nor Boundaries” – Where Photographers get together’ but are obviously talking about geography since they strictly enforce the no nudes clause.
    A Toronto page is pretty cool, those who have no account see most nude content as a warning cover and have to click each one to open it. If you set up an account, you can set a flag to cover nudes or display them, your choice.
    I am surprised to hear Facebook is important to photographers as to me it screams beginner. But then beyond having an account so I can log in when I have to, I do not pay Facebook any attention.

    • No difference, I assure you. And Facebook is not for beginners: it is where everyone is. Including my models, my colleagues, and my clients. And their friends. Companies too – including mine- all have Facebook “Pages”. Bigger than you think!

  3. Well said, Michael! If your picture is considered a nude photo, then so should any photo of a woman wearing a bikini which would show a lot more skin and body shape than this shot. The frustrating thing is that this isn’t just about controlling what you see, it’s about controlling what you think.

  4. FB says:
    “We have a strict “no nudity or pornography” policy. Any content that is inappropriately sexual will be removed. Before posting questionable content, be mindful of the consequences for you and your environment.”

  5. Michael, I feel your pain and share your sorrow. I have had the same thing happen to me. Basically someone was jelous about the photos of some of the models I had taken at an event and reported them as inapropriate. Although I have found 100’s of photos showing nudity on other FB pages as apposed to my photos that apparently were nude (wet t-shirt is nude?) the other photos have been up for over a year and yet FB has done nothing regarding them. Simply rediculous!!!

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