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Towards a fine-grained and contextual approach to Nudity Moderation

January 18th, 2023

Blanket bans on nudity and specifically on bare breasts are coming under increased scrutiny. We hear they clash with cultural expectations and impede right to expression for women, trans and non-binary people.

Meta's oversight board is asking for an evolution on bare breast bans and removals. Image by vector_corp on Freepik

What happened?

In a decision released yesterday, the Oversight Board of Meta, an independent body that makes decisions about content moderation on Facebook and Instagram, recommends that Meta “define clear, objective, rights-respecting criteria to govern its Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity Community Standard, so that all people are treated in a manner consistent with international human rights standards, without discrimination on the basis of sex or gender”.

This recommendation follows the removal of two posts by Meta because they violated the Sexual Solicitation Community Standards. Both were posted by a US-based couple identifying as transgender and non-binary, and contain images of them bare-chested with the nipples covered. The posts refer to transgender healthcare and a fundraising page to pay for a gender-affirming surgery to create a flatter chest.

About bare nipple moderation

Meta’s Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity Community Standards indicate that users should not post imagery of real nude adults depicting uncovered female nipples, except in some contexts related to breastfeeding, birth, health or protest. But this rule is “based on a binary view of gender and a distinction between male and female bodies” according to the Oversight Board.

Cultural and geographical aspects are also to be taken into account when it comes to bare chest moderation since expectations in the US are not necessarily the same as in other countries. Remember the scandal of Janet Jackson's bare breast that shocked the Americans and created a nipplegate in 2004. Spanish, Greek or French viewers are more accustomed to seeing and accepting displays of female breasts or bare buttocks in movies or on (nudist) beaches.

That said, more and more international movements support the liberation of speech and ideas on this topic, such as Free the nipple or Topfreedom. This is a hot topic that raises the question of allowing or forbidding any content with bare chests, regardless of gender.

How can this be addressed?

Because we believe each client should be able to decide what and how they want to moderate, we assign images and videos into 8 different nudity levels that can be used to set up appropriate rules in line with each client's community policies.

Create your own rules based on 8 nudity levels, from the most explicit to the least explicit

Female breasts with visible nipples or areola are part of the “erotica” category, along with nude buttocks in non-sexual settings and the pubic area with no genitals visible. Bare male chests are in their own category (when not associated with full nudity or sexual acts).

This distinction was made because most references to bare female breasts are nowadays used in an erotic context, while male breasts are less so. This is of course questionable, but users can in any case decide to handle the two categories in the same way (either keeping or removing the content) if they want to.

We are committed to working towards more inclusive and less gender-biased representations and rules-based decisions. We work with customers to give them more fine-grained descriptions, beyond the 8 levels mentioned above. Let us know if you would like to hear more.

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