Meta oversight board calls for overhaul of nude photo standards
Content creators have long criticized Facebook and Instagram for their content moderation policies relating to photos showing partial nudity, arguing that their practices are inconsistent and often biased against women and LGBTQ people.
This week, the oversight board of Meta, the platform’s parent company, urged it to clarify its guidelines on such photos after Instagram deleted two posts depicting bare-chested non-binary and transgender people.
The posts were quickly reinstated after the couple appealed and Meta’s supervisory board reversed the original decision to remove them. This was the council’s first case directly involving gender-nonconforming users.
“The restrictions and exceptions to the rules on female nipples are extensive and confusing, particularly when applied to transgender and non-binary people,” Meta’s oversight board said in its case summary Tuesday. “The inherent lack of clarity in this policy creates uncertainty for users and reviewers, and makes it unworkable in practice.”
The issue arose when a transgender, non-binary couple posted photos in 2021 and 2022 of their bare chest with their nipples covered. The captions included details of a fundraiser for one member of the couple to undergo top surgery, a gender-affirming procedure to flatten a person’s chest. Instagram deleted the photos after other users flagged them, claiming their depiction of breasts violated the site’s Community Standard for Sexual Solicitation. The couple appealed the decision and the photos were later reinstated.
The couple’s back and forth with Instagram highlighted criticism that the platform’s guidelines for adult content are unclear. According to its community guidelines, Instagram prohibits nude photos but makes some exceptions for a range of content types, including mental health awareness posts, depictions of breastfeeding and other “health-related situations”. – settings that Meta’s board described as “convoluted and ill-defined”. in his summary.
How to decide which depictions of people’s breasts should be allowed on social media platforms has long been a source of debate. Dozens of artists and activists argue that there is a double standard that women’s breast posts are more likely to be removed than men’s. This is also the case for transgender and non-binary people, advocates say.
Meta’s supervisory board, a body of 22 academics, journalists and human rights activists, is funded by Meta but operates independently from the company and makes decisions binding on it. The group recommended that platforms further clarify the community norm on adult nudity and sexual activity, “so that all people are treated in a manner consistent with international human rights standards, without discrimination. based on sex or gender”.
He also called for “a comprehensive assessment of the human rights impact of such a change, involving various stakeholders, and creating a plan to address any harm identified.”
Meta has 60 days to review the oversight board’s summary, and a company spokesperson said it will publicly respond to each of the board’s recommendations by mid-March.