Meta’s Oversight Board Wants Nudity Allowed on Company’s Social Media Platforms

Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, Meta, could be changing their rules on bare-chested images of women, according to a report from The Guardian.

The company’s oversight board, composed of academics, politicians, and journalists, has called for a revamp of the rules that currently ban the display of bare-chested women, but not men.

On Jan 17, the oversight board recommended that Meta’s adult nudity and sexual activity community standard be updated to align with international human rights standards.

This decision comes after the censorship of two posts by a transgender and non-binary couple. The posts featured the couple topless, but with their nipples covered, and included captions about trans healthcare and raising money for top surgery. The posts were flagged by users, removed by an AI system, and ultimately restored after the couple appealed the decision.

The oversight board found that “the policy is based on a binary view of gender and a distinction between male and female bodies,” which creates confusion when it comes to intersex, non-binary and transgender users. The board recommended that Meta establish “clear, objective, rights-respecting criteria” when it comes to moderating nudity, “so that all people are treated in a manner consistent with international human rights standards.”

The #FreeTheNipple campaign, which aims to remove the sexualization of women’s breasts, has been gaining momentum since the 2000s. The campaign went mainstream in 2013, following Facebook’s removal of clips from the film “Free the Nipple” directed by Lina Esco. The campaign has been supported by celebrities like Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, and Lena Dunham. Florence Pugh recently commented on the topic, saying “Of course, I don’t want to offend people, but I think my point is: how can my nipples offend you that much?”

In 2015, Los Angeles-based artist Micol Hebron created stickers of male nipples, which are permitted on Instagram, to highlight the disparity in the platform’s policies. In 2019, Hebron was invited to Instagram’s headquarters to discuss the company’s nipple policy. Hebron stated that “During that meeting, we learned that there were no transgender people on the content moderation policy team, and I also observed that there were no gender-neutral bathrooms there.” A Meta representative disputed Hebron’s characterization of the event, stating “Much has changed since 2019.”

Despite this, Hebron expressed excitement that the oversight board had taken up the issue of gender and sex-based discrimination. Hebron emphasized the importance of allowing all bodies autonomy, saying “It sounds so frivolous to a lot of people to talk about nipples, but if you think about the ways that governments around the world try to control and repress female-identifying bodies, trans bodies or non-binary bodies, it’s not.”

Meta stated that they “welcome[ed] the board’s decision in this case” and that the couple’s photos had been reinstated “prior to the decision.” A representative from Meta stated that the company is “constantly evolving our policies to help make our platforms safer for everyone.” The representative also acknowledged that there is more that can be done to support the LGBTQ+ community and that the company is committed to working on this.