#FreeTheNipple: Facebook allows breast feeding photos in change to nudity and pornography policy

Photos showing women's nipples, regardless of the context, were previously banned from the social media website

Facebook has changed its community guidelines to allow users to post photos of breastfeeding.

The change comes as the wide-ranging #FreeTheNipple online campaign has built pace in its attack against guidelines used by social media websites to regulate nudity – from photos of breastfeeding to topless photos post by singer Rihanna’s on her now defunct Instagram account.

Facebook’s Community Standards, which outline what users are allowed to post, never included a outright ban on photos of breastfeeding.

However, users who had posted photos of women showing their nipples while breast feeding have complained that Facebook moderators citing ‘nudity and pornography’ removed their images, regardless of whether the photos were overtly sexual.

Now, the social media giant has ordered its moderators to consider the context of a photo or image, meaning non-sexual photos including female nipples, such as nursing mothers or women with mastectomies, will be allowed on the website.

To test the new rules, US parenting blogger Paala Secor posted a tender photo of her breastfeeding to her 4,655 Facebook followers, in which her nipple was exposed.

Alongside the photo accompanied with #FreeTheNipple, she wrote: “We are proud to nourish our babies with our breasts and we will not be shamed for it. We will share our special/difficult/funny/priceless breastfeeding moments with our friends, families, and community and we will not to told [sic] to keep them to ourselves."

She discovered that while the website’s policy has changed officially, its implementation appears to be unclear to some moderators.

Less than a day after she released the photo, Facebook unpublished her page and warned it could be deleted, Secor explained on her personal blog. She later received an apology from the website in which a member of the Community Operations  team admitted the page had been “accidentally” removed  because of “something [Secor] posted”, and the photo was re-instated.

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Secor told The Independent  "It’s good that Facebook have finally responded to the concerns of users who wanted nothing more than to capture shared moments with their babies, and we hope that this new policy helps reduce the stigma around images of breastfeeding.

"Like so many other important issues, social media is going to help reach more people very quickly, and everyone will soon understand that shaming women for breastfeeding, for having female bodies, for using them to feed their babies, is not okay. Or at least, that's our hope."

Facebook offered clarification that the change was made, but has not yet responded to a request to comment on the change in policy guidelines.

Francesca Entwistle, a leader of Unicef's the National Infant Feeding Network and Midwifery Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, has also welcomed the change.

“It’s good that Facebook have finally responded to the concerns of users who wanted nothing more than to capture shared moments with their babies, and we hope that this new policy helps reduce the stigma around images of breastfeeding," she told The Independent.

“It’s good that Facebook have finally responded to the concerns of users who wanted nothing more than to capture shared moments with their babies, and we hope that this new policy helps reduce the stigma around images of breastfeeding. Many women often encounter negative comments and attitudes when breastfeeding in public and anything that helps to normalise such an instinctive behaviour – a mother feeding her hungry baby – is to be welcomed," she added.

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