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France: Art museum censored by Facebook for nude photograph

7 March 2013

On 1 March 2013, the Jeu de Paume art museum’s Facebook account was blocked for 24 hours, following a decision by Facebook to remove a photograph the Parisian museum posted on its page and which the social network ruled was a violation of its Rights and Responsibilities guidelines. Facebook warned that next time it happens, the museum’s account will be closed down permanently.

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[We have removed the following content you posted or were the admin of because it violates Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.] – screendump
The photograph of a naked woman by Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) was part of an exhibition on the French photographer at the Jeu de Paume contemporary art museum in central Paris, Le Nouvel Observateur reported.

The Jeu de Paume museum posted a message on its Facebook page after the 24-hour ban, saying: “Remembering that ‘l’Origine du monde’ by Gustave Courbet was decleared unwanted on Facebook. (…) On Friday, the U.S. giant struck again.”

“We had already committed other offenses in the past, publishing nudes by Willy Ronis and Manuel Alvarez Bravo. We have been adviced that by the next time we receive a warning from Facebook, our account will be permanently closed down. So we will not publish nudes in the future, even though we believe that they have a high artistic value, and that there is nothing pornographic about these photographs, which are in accordance with “the right to publish contents of a personal nature.”


Seek to appeal
In another post, the museum pointed out that Facebook’s censorship does not rely solely on algorithms: Last year, Facebook removed an image of Gerhard Richter’s painting ‘Ema’ from Paris’ Pompidou Centre’s Facebook-page, but then it later apologised for having confused the painting with a photo – nude photos are forbidden on the social network, but not nude paintings or sculptures.

Touched by the large number of support reactions, the Jeu de Paume museum finally wrote: “We will not compromise the quality of the content on our page but still can’t take the risk to see it suspended. The fact that others have experienced the same problems should push Facebook and its directors to reconsider their position vis-à-vis the nakedness in art photography. We expect a reaction from the administrators and seek to appeal their decision.”

A spokesperson for Facebook France responded to the controversy on 6 March 2013: “So that everyone can feel comfortable and safe on Facebook, we have implemented the terms of universal use that determine what content is allowed, or not, on Facebook. This framework allows to make Facebook a space in which our users feel safe and confident, including children over 13 years old.”

The social network recognised the difficulty of distinguishing between art and pornography:

“If the publication of elements containing nudity goes against the terms of use of Facebook, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between what is art and pornography. Our teams verify millions of alerts per day and our system is one of the most effective on the web. Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that our teams remove content by mistake. In this type of cases, we allow users to appeal the decision and if our teams were mistaken, they restore the content removed as soon as possible,” wrote the Facebook France spokesperson.



Le Nouvel Observateur – 5 March 2013:
Facebook : le musée du Jeu de Paume ne publiera plus de nus
“Bloqué pendant 24 heures pour avoir posté une photographie représentant un nu, le musée parisien limitera désormais son utilisation de Facebook.” Par Amandine Schmitt


Worldcrunch – 6 March 2013:
Ooh La La – French Art Museum Censored By Facebook For Nude Photograph
“On Friday, the Jeu de Paume museum’s Facebook account was blocked for 24 hours, following a decision by Facebook to remove a photograph the Parisian museum posted on its page and which the social network ruled was a violation of its Rights and Responsibilities guidelines.” By Bertrand Hauger.



Related content

The Telegraph – 22 April 2013:
Amazon looks pathetic by excluding porn from its search engine (but still selling it)
By Willard Foxton


Artsfreedom.org – 11 February 2013:
Denmark: Apple’s puritanical censorship creates a movement


Artsfreedom.org – 19 November 2012:
iTunes: Apple troubled by women’s bodies


Artsfreedom.org – 8 November 2012:
Apple’s iBookstore censorship case: The distinction between porn and art



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