What does Facebook have in common with a late-80s Cincinatti Department of Decency? Apparently, they both have a problem with the work of Robert Mapplethorpe. Earlier today, The Art Newspaper reported that the Swedish photography museum Fotografiska is censoring their own page by covering bits of nudity in pictures promoting an exhibition of work by Mapplethorpe with labels reading “Facebook-friendly square.” It’s worth mentioning that the graphic echoes the colors and lettering of Facebooks own logo, and a spokesperson from the museum says that they are meant–at least in part–to “trigger a debate.”
As a matter of policy, Facebook prohibits content that is “hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence,” presumably because they’d rather not see their site used as a tool to hurt or offend. This, of course, is the same site that allows groups like “Brick or Bang” and “Riding Your Girlfriend Softly Cause You Don’t Want to Wake Her Up” to operate freely. While policies against hate speech prohibit this publication from having a Facebook page, they somehow didn’t stop a Facebook group for “International Burn a Koran Day” from forming (though to be fair, pages with the names “‘International Burn A Koran Day’ is a symbol of hate” and “We Hate The Persons Who Has Made the Page Every Body Burn Quran Day” are up there, too).
This isn’t exactly splitting hairs. Silly at best, Facebook’s policy on offensive content is being enforced with little regard to consistency or common sense, and Fotografiska is right to draw attention to it. It doesn’t bother me a bit that their act of satire will bring all the more attention to an exhibition of work by a photographer whose work has been subject to arbitrary, outdated notions of decency in the past. Readers interested in seeing groups that promote violence against women being taken down can sign a petition on Change.org.