Facebook vs Breastfeeding by Jodine Chase

Facebook is still deleting breastfeeding photos! Wait, didn’t they apologize? I thought Facebook said they fixed this problem?! Well, no.

The work done by Emma Kwasnica and her supporters earlier this year did result in SOME Facebook policy changes– in particular the change of just one word – from infant to child. Facebook has reiterated it welcomes the sharing of breastfeeding photos on its social network and has more clearly articulated its breastfeeding images policies.

Although some steps toward correcting the problem were made by Facebook, the problem still remains. AFTER the protests in February and Facebook’s offer of an apology to Emma. The deletions and account suspensions are still happening today with some people receiving suspensions from their accounts for up to 30 days. Facebook has admitted it isn’t able to keep deletions from occurring in error, and with the enormous volume of images uploaded – 250 million each day – Facebook says mistakes will happen. Facebook invites users to re-upload images removed in error, but they have admitted they can’t keep them from being taken down again – some images have been removed multiple times and some people have been targeted multiple times, suffering increasingly harsh account suspensions for photos Facebook has specifically acknowledged were removed in error. In May 2012 Emma and her team mounted a 24-hour exhibition, displaying one banned image after another on the hour.  Cherie Raymond, a New Zealand breastfeeding supporter and owner of the Beautiful Breastfeeding Facebook page has had a 30-day account suspension three times in the last year. Breastfeeding supporters and educators like Cherie Raymond and Emma Kwasnica are the ones sanctioned most frequently by Facebook and this is a serious problem.

When Jessica Martin-Weber’s The Leaky B@@b page is sanctioned, it affects a 50,000-strong community that relies on the connections made via Facebook for breastfeeding support. These communities of support for breastfeeding mothers are frequently caught up in Facebook’s disconnect between policy and procedure.  In June Emma and her team mounted another exhibition featuring 15 Facebook pages taken down or sanctioned for sharing breastfeeding images. These pages have a combined user base of over 100,000 people and a reach of millions. The most recent example was just this week – a UK breastfeeding education poster was taken down and the page admin who posted it, Justin Everette Stout, who runs a breastfeeding support page for dads, was suspended for 30 days.

So what is the solution? Activists working on this want the company to assign a “Facebook Team” – the same sort of team Facebook’s gives to major advertisers – to Breastfeeding. The Facebook Breastfeeding Team would work to support and protect breastfeeding on the social network. They’d oversee staff training and review policies to make sure breastfeeding images and information aren’t caught in the “porn trap” that results in so many inadvertent deletions today. The team would also be able to remove black marks against user accounts given in error – did you know you have a “permanent record” on Facebook where your transgressions, true or false, are tracked? The Facebook Breastfeeding Team could assign special protection to high-volume and high profile breastfeeding supporters and educators to prevent cyberbullies from maliciously filing reports that trigger removals and deletions. This move could be a feather in Facebook’s cap. COO Sheryl Sandberg says of Facebook’s primary goal: “Our mission is to help people to connect and stay connected… we are focused on doing one thing incredibly well…one thing…. connect the world.”

What can YOU do to help encourage Facebook to assign a Breastfeeding Team and keep moms connected? • “Like” the FB! Stop Harassing page, the hub for this campaign to stay up to date – you’ll see the latest images that have been deleted and people who have been suspended. • Sign this Avaaz petition, which will be delivered to Menlo Park FB HQ later this year. • Have you had a photo removed or have you been sanctioned for sharing? Fill out the survey, it only takes a minute. • Are you a breastfeeding organization add your voice to the open letters to Facebook campaign.

Want to know more?  You can view images deleted by Facebook and read more about the people who have been sanctioned at the update blog maintained by Jodine Chase, who has been tracking deletions and suspensions since January of this year, after her account was suspended for sharing one of Emma’s erroneously banned photos.

For the all the news about breastfeeding activism and ways you can get involved, visit the Best for Babes Take Action hub.

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