Art is Subjective …
Or so they say. One person’s artistic nude model reclined on a rock is another person’s qualifier for pornography. But there does seem to be a legitimate and poorly-defined line in the sand when it comes to what exactly qualifies as a “obscene” in the Social Media world. Finding a level of consistency when referring to obscenity is difficult. It’s generally well-understood by most people that full frontal nudity is frowned upon, if not totally disallowed in most social networking groups (at least the mainstream ones). But online social networking sites like Facebook and G+ don’t often apply the same measuring stick when it comes to defining what is obscene. It’s highly subjective. And there’s there rub …
My Experience in Censorship-land
I know how inconsistent this measuring stick actually IS because I was a victim of social media censorship myself not so long ago. My personal experience with social networking censorship was recently covered in an article on HollywoodToday.net entitled, “Censorship and Social Networks – violence is in. Nipples are out!”
I typically use my personal Facebook page to post a wide variety of content. Anything from boudoir photography to my Instagram feeds, to philosophical quotes, to poetry, to music clips and anything and everything in-between. I have a wide palate of artistic tastes, which means my personal measurement stick for what qualifies as “art” is pretty damn long. That said, there are things I post on my wall, to my friends and associates, that I wouldn’t post on my business page. One such post was of a nude model reclined on her knees on a sandy beach wearing … well, her long hair and some sand on her bottom … mostly. But it was gorgeous and highly tasteful. Facebook didn’t agree.
Within days of the post I received a notification from Facebook that the image had been reported as “obscene” and that it violated Facebook’s Statement of Right’s and Responsibilities by being pornographic in nature. The image was removed by Facebook and I was put into a 24-hour warning time out of sorts. I couldn’t comment on posts or post anything to my own wall. It was like a ruler-smack across the knuckles. I didn’t know who reported the image, but I did know that whoever did had an exceedingly low tolerance for seeing the human form in any other fashion than fully dressed.
Listen, I’m no prude but … really? Really? When did the human body become so controversial? It really threw me for a loop. First of all, my site is not accessible to anyone under the age of 18. Yes, the woman in question IS sans clothing (unless you count sand as clothing) but the photo is not in any way gratuitous. So I ask you … how, exactly is the general public supposed to know what Facebook defines as “obscene” if clear examples are not given? I’ve seen FAR worse on both personal pages and public pages, yet those images were allowed to remain. It raised a bigger question for me however. I see the human body as art, in its own right, and there is a big difference between body styled art and porn, but it seems the wider social networking community has a different take on that subject.
So who makes the rules? Who decides?
Money Talks. S0-Called Smut, Walks. It seems that business decides, and likely always will. Through the power of anonymity the Internet has become a breeding ground of hate and closed minded ideologues fighting for the even more vague concept of the “greater good.” Social networks know this and capitalize on it. The common underlying connection is money. Through the non specific excuse of liability, whether real or perceived, the threat of financial consequences has become the forefront of business models with advertisers and sponsors pulling content as quickly as possible the moment anything even remotely resembling controversy rears its head.
It will be interesting to see how Facebook, G+ and perhaps other nascent social networks will respond to this challenge as the social media spectrum continues to evolve. Freedom of expression needs to find a place where it can thrive, and if it cannot, it will find a new way, or technology will.