Tech & The Web

Don’t Like the Facebook Nudity Policy? The Answer’s Simple

©Paulus Rusyanto/123RF

A lawsuit over the Facebook Nudity Policy seems to have started off with a focus on the wrong issue.

An appeals court in Paris has ruled against Facebook in a lawsuit involving a claim of censorship. But the issue that lost Facebook the appeal had nothing to do with the bigger issue here.

The appeal focused on a little-known condition of Facebook’s Terms of Service that stipulates any court cases against the social media giant must be handled in Facebook’s home state of California:

You will resolve any claim, cause of action or dispute (claim) you have with us arising out of or relating to this Statement or Facebook exclusively in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California or a state court located in San Mateo County, and you agree to submit to the personal jurisdiction of such courts for the purpose of litigating all such claims. The laws of the State of California will govern this Statement, as well as any claim that might arise between you and us, without regard to conflict of law provisions.

That would be difficult enough for someone like me all the way in South Carolina; but for someone who lives in France, it would be impractical to say the very least.

Facebook argued that the lawsuit in France had no merit since it wasn’t filed in California. The appeals court said people in France are able to sue Facebook in France.

The case began when a French teacher posted an image of a 19th century Gustave Courbet painting that hangs in the Musee d’Orsay. The particular painting, while no doubt a recognized work of art, happens to be a closeup of a woman’s genitalia. Facebook removed the link and image of the art and the teacher sued for approximately $22,000 in damages, claiming Facebook had no right to censor him.

I have no idea how he came up with such a figure as the amount he felt he was owed for Facebook’s action. But he prevailed initially.

The real issue here is whether he had, as he claims, the “right” to post such an image.

While the painting is hanging in a Paris museum, a fact that certainly lends credence to any claim that it is a bonafide piece of art, that’s not the point.

The teacher, along with every other Facebook account holder, agreed not to post nudity. They did so when they clicked a little checkbox that indicated they agree to Facebook’s Terms of Service. In section 3 of Facebook’s TOS, it makes the issue of nudity quite clear:

You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.

You will note that it does not stipulate that works of fine art are exempted from the nudity prohibition. The painting, if you’ve seen it, leaves nothing to the imagination where nudity is concerned. You cannot rationally argue that the depiction, whatever else it might say to you, doesn’t include nudity.

That means it’s up to Facebook to decide whether nudity actually means nudity, or whether only certain types of nudity may actually qualify as such.

To put it another way, we are all playing in their sandbox. If you don’t like the policy, don’t check the “I agree” box. Find a different platform that’ll let you post whatever you like. If you’re on their site, expect to be penalized if you don’t follow their rules. It really is that simple.

If there were any question about whether an image depicting nudity — even of the “artistic” variety — would violate Terms of Service that specifically say nudity is not allowed, he could always have contacted Facebook’s support before posting it.

If he thought it was a rule that should be adjusted to accommodate certain varieties of undress, a potential outcome that would lead to those terms being updated should be reward enough.

He certainly shouldn’t be awarded tens of thousands of dollars for violating someone else’s policy on their website.

Do you think banning nudity on a social media website is reasonable?

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.