Was Facebook wrong?

A few days ago I posted the first picture below on Facebook. I had received many lovely comments and then went out to enjoy my day. Upon returning later that day I received a notice/warning from Facebook that my image had been removed due to the content; nudity. At first I was stunned, as it never occurred to me that I had put up such an image and then I realized that in the beautiful sepia image of a mother and her child that the mothers breast was showing. This brought up some emotions for me as it was a beautiful portrait showing love and dignity of human beings that are, except by their geography and circumstances, the same as us.

In my photography I try to break down the stereotypes that because people live and dress differently than we do in the western world that they are not equal and are without dignity. When I visit different cultures and tribes I am usually overcome by their beauty and pride even when living in harsh conditions. I photograph the beauty I see and forget about the views of the western world. On occasion when I  later view some of my photographs I find I may have a great portrait of a young girl but realize I should have remembered to have her cover her breast as it would now be inappropriate by US standards to share the beautiful photograph. However, when I posted this photograph I did not even notice the breast was showing as I was overcome by the beauty of the moment.

If this had been a painting from one of the masters would it have been removed? If so is photography not considered art?

I have now burned out the portion where you could slightly see the breast so I can repost it. I have posted it under the the original.

26 Responses to “Was Facebook wrong?”

  1. Patricia Fritchie

    Piper we live in a world with much “I know better than you…” attitudes. Your portrait of this mother and child is beautiful and anyone who sees synister depravity or sexual content in this photo is looking with jaded eyes. Their problem not yours. Keep shooting being true to your subjects and know that these photographs do indeed tell their story.

  2. Francine

    Your a true artist and this photo is a work of art, don’t ever let anyone tell you different. Cheers

  3. Doug Arrington

    Piper, the image is beautiful as you already know. This is just another example of, well, a couple things. First, we live in a society overly influenced by trial lawyers, resulting in actions aimed at defending ourselves from the self serving laws they enact. A byproduct is that we no longer encourage the use of sound discretionary judgment. In fact, we proactively discourage it in order to survive in an over-regulated world. As an unfortunate result, we are becoming a society of lemmings, afraid to exercise independent judgement or independent thought and choosing instead to mindlessly follow a set of established literal guidelines without exception.

    Our defense is to choose “safe” outlets for personal expression. Know, though, that your work is appreciated and respected by all that view it.

  4. Carl Merkin

    First, I love the image, and totally disagree with the FaceBook censorship!
    FaceBook receives 1 BILLION photo downloads a MONTH, and I doubt that they could possibly monitor them for content….this is a case of some other FaceBook member complaining to them because they were offended. This has happened to me and others, and yet you can see more revealing and even sexual content on FaceBook if you look around. It’s just that nobody has complained about it yet! This is even sadder than FaceBook pulling a Big Brother on you! It’s one pious jerk imposing their “morality” on the entire world.

  5. Sherry Patterson

    Facebook is wrong, This is a beautiful image.

  6. Sime

    Hey there… WHilst I find your image beautiful, you have to consider for a second that half the world is on Facebook, and that, sadly, they have a blanket coverage to ‘protect’ those that need protecting. I run a large (170k) photography forum and know for a fact that if you show a hint of breast (let’s not even talk nipple!) that half of them get offended. People all over the world have different values and I think Facebook do a pretty good job of keeping almost everyone happy.

    I don’t envy the job of their moderation team!!

    Great image, don’t be disheartened!


  7. Helene Kobelnyk

    We live in a world of idiots! Your photo is beautiful. Post it on your blog as is (without the “burning out”) and then post a link on FB. Photography IS art, at lease the way people like you and I do it. Your work is excellent and very moving. Never adjust your photos to please anyone, especially a social network. There’s always a way to get around them. Do not let them dictate or alter your vision!

  8. Piper

    Patricia and Francine, Thank you.

    Doug glad to see you hear and love your comment, very well said
    Carl- we have been having quite a discussion on FB and it seems people feel someone was offended and reported it….

  9. Piper

    Sime, I understand the liability and policy of facebook and I honestly did not even think about it when I posted the pic, as I stated I did not even see the nudity…. just as I don’t when photographing them…. I think in this situation it is very controversial in the message we are sending as the big brother and judgement of others traditions…. Facebook is a global network and to say that these tribes way of life is inappropriate? I’m not sure that is the right message either. What bothered me most was how it was handled by threatening to block my account… was that not taking it too far and crossing the line?? We are having a very interesting discussion about this on FB-take a look if you have a moment- I think you will find the different views interesting.

  10. Piper

    Thank you Helene. I will just be more alert about what I do post on FB, it was just handled wrong and in my opinion sends the wrong message of stereotyping and judging others…more typical in western society.

  11. Amy Warren

    Facebook was wrong! The image that you captured was beautiful and in no way offensive. I have seen profile pictures on facebook with more nudity than your photograph. When I first viewed the image, I did not notice the nudity, only the expressions on their faces. Once again I thank you for capturing and sharing these beautiful images with me and so many others.

  12. Coral

    So sad. Facebook was wrong. Such a beautiful image and done tastefully. I really don’t get what was wrong with this beautiful peace. Awesome work and shame on them.

  13. Janet Loughrey

    Unfortunately, we live in a society that is constantly bombarded by sexual messages, yet treats the human body as something to be ashamed of. It’s no wonder you would be confused. Keep posting those beautiful images on your website and blog where there are hopefully sane and intelligent viewers who can judge for themselves the difference between an image that is offensive and one that is art. Yours certainly qualifies as the latter (duh).

  14. Jeremy Verinsky

    Piper- this is a great image which was horribly ruined by censorship. By these standards National Geographic should be sold from behind the counter and only after verifying your age. Ridiculous!

  15. Wenata Babkowski

    I definately think Facebook got it wrong! Your original photo had wonderful composition and cultural context, and I never noticed the “breast” until I went looking for it after reading your post. It is certainly not the focal point of the image. I think people need to practice more tolerance, understanding and celebration of each other’s differences, rather than insisting on censorship and stifling of artistic vision. Especially in this day and age with so many fighting for the right to democracy and freedom, freedom of expression is something we should support and fight to uphold more than ever. Besides, we all have choice in the content we view and the people we “friend” on Facebook”. If someone found your picture “offensive”, would a better course of action not had been to “unfriend” you, rather than preventing the rest of us from experiencing the “natural” beauty of your work? You create stunning photographs and I hope this doesn’t deter you from capturing images true to your vision. Cheers, Wenata

  16. Piper Mackay


    Thank you. This has made for an interesting discussion and it was interesting how many people have commented that they did not see the breast until it was pointed out. I also did not even notice it when I put it up. I think the conclusion is that someone did report it which is sad as I have such a wonder community of photographer on FB that enjoy my cultural work. I will continue to shoot as I always do, telling the stories of the amazing people I meet and cultures I am fortunate to get to interact with.

  17. W. Lotus

    Facebook allows games in which wars are waged and organized crime is entertainment, but the sight of a woman’s breast in a culture where women go topless is “offensive”? My mind, it boggles.

  18. Hilary Binns


    Facebook was most certainly wrong. Passing off gratuitous images of nudity as art might be open to censorship, but this is a beautiful natural image of a real person going about their daily life. To suggest that the way she looks is offensive is as wrong as suggesting that Facebook ban images of women wearing full-face veils. I am not suggesting for one minute that they do this, I am just making the point that to judge a society’s way of life by the values of another is so misguided.

    Your pictures are beautiful please don’t let this affect the way you shoot or the images you choose to share.


  19. Jason

    Most certainly they were wrong, and I can’t believe they did it. The world it seems gets crazier by the minute. Most of the time I can always see both sides of the story, but not this time. A great image by the way, and I love your choice of sepia here

  20. nelly

    I would have posted the photo with part of it pixelated in large format, and would have added text to point out the ridiculousness of facebook.
    Half-naked drunken selfies = okay.
    beautiful photo = not okay.

    Other options are thankfully out there 🙂 +

  21. TerriB

    fb was wrong but due to their simplistic policies, they will always remove such a photo. It is a beautiful photo. fb doesn’t deserve it anyway.

  22. Nikoky Sakura

    Hi, Piper! Don`t be anger on Facebook. People think about one picture say 1000 words, maybe facebook think about one picture say 999 words. They do not know much about these people that for example that sometimes are forced to squeeze a branch for a drop of water. Now some time ago I saw a picture that won an award Pulitzer (Kevin Carter: Vulture stalking the Child (1993)).For example: http://blog.eyeem.com/?p=2494 I hope to be a link at the right page, the picture is at the bottom of the page. My question is to Facebook – that’s not the world we live all? So to clear on the issue of Facebook are people, each with a different view of the facts, some of them don`t have what is called catching the moment, but that is no excuse, so a bad note to Facebook! So Piper keep going and not get influenced by different opinions and views on various issues! Good luck and good recovery!

  23. Dan

    Not surprisingly, Facebook has their head up their arse on this issue, as with others. It’s a company run by got-rich-quick 20-somethings, who seem to have a know-it-all complex. Hence their refusal to listen, year after year, to people’s requests about improving their features and user experience. Hence requiring public shaming in order to handle privacy issues correctly.

    Google+ will be their undoing within 18 months IMO. It’s already a much more useful tool for categorizing relationships and customizing discussions, and it hasn’t been in beta for more than a month or two. FB sucks; lousy privacy practices and all.

  24. Piper

    Thank you everyone for your comments. Interesting many of you, like myself, did not even notice the uncovered breast until it was brought to your attention. I understand facebook has a blanket policy but we are in a global society and Facebook is global. To say the way these beautiful people dress is inappropriate in their appearance is the exact message and stereotype I try to break down with my photography. This was an opportunity for Facebook to show respect and compassion towards all cultures.

  25. Jac

    I love your photos. To me Facebook’s attitude just reeks of double standards imposed by western society.

    In other words, National Geographic is wrong to publish the photos it does, and I’m living in a morally corrupt world meaning Africa.

    I grew up in Namibia and still live in Africa where the attire in the photo is still traditional.

    Why not rather put in more effort to eradicate child pornography and abuse so graphically displayed all over the internet, and leave art as just that… Art.

    Anyway thank you for portraying the beauty that is Africa.