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Facebook Embroiled in Breastfeeding Controversy

Are photos of breastfeeding mothers obscene? This question is at the heart of the latest Facebook controversy, as angered users are protesting the site’s removal of graphic breastfeeding images. Facebook is currently one of the most popular social networking websites in the world with more than 140 million active users, and like most popular online organizations, it has a long and detailed list of terms and conditions. Among other things, users are forbidden to publish anything “obscene,” although no elaboration is made.

In October, a Facebook user named Heather Farley posted photos of herself breastfeeding her infant, and the images were promptly removed. When she uploaded them a second time, the Facebook team sent her a letter warning that she would be removed from the site if she continued to violate the terms of service. Frustrated, Heather soon located a popular Facebook group called "Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding is Not Obscene," which in a short time has grown to more than 81,000 members. The group’s homepage asks the question, “What about a baby breastfeeding is obscene? Especially in comparison to MANY other pictures posted all over Facebook that really are obscene.”

In response to this controversy, the website released an official statement declaring that “We take no action on the vast majority of breastfeeding photos because they follow the site's Terms of Use. These policies are designed to ensure Facebook remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for all users, including the many children who use the site.” Officially, the site only prohibits images that reveal any part of a woman’s nipple or areola.

This has not appeased the passionate members of "Hey Facebook," however. On December 27th, the group hosted a virtual protest which reportedly drew more than eleven thousand participants. Protesters were encouraged to post images of breastfeeding mothers on their accounts, sending the message that “nursing moms everywhere have a right to show pictures of their babies eating, just like bottle-fed babies have a right to be seen.”

Despite the uproar, the company has remained persistent in upholding its terms of use, stating that it will continue to remove any obscene photos as they are reported. Still, Heather and others like her are hoping that Facebook will change its tune and recognize the value of nursing. “It’s a beautiful thing,” she told CBS. “It’s kind of upsetting that Facebook has a different view about breastfeeding.”

Click here to see our public breastfeeding debate.

Should Facebook allow images of breastfeeding mothers?


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