But Facebook is not obliged to publish naked art nor are users entitled to post it, notes Mary Anne Franks, University of Miami law professor and vice president of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, since Facebook, as a private company, is not bound by First Amendment principles. A more useful question, she says, is to ask whether the company is living up to its aim to create a safe and supportive global community
, and whether their policies produce that outcome.
She describes her own attempts to report explicit threats of violence against women and minorities, which have repeatedly been met with a company response that those threats do not violate community standards.
“Well, what kind of community standards do you want to have?” she says. “Given the freedom that Facebook has to develop policies on what is good and what is bad, it frustrates me that they don’t do better.”
She points out that at a certain point, Facebook’s lack of action indicates its own incentives in responding to users’ complaints and demands.
“Facebook is a for-profit company, and Facebook is going do whatever keeps Facebook profitable,” says Franks.
To its credit, she notes, Facebook, alongside other social media sites, has been attempting to fight the non-consensual sharing of intimate material (sometimes known as “revenge porn”). The Guardian’s investigation
found Facebook receives tens of thousands of cases of revenge porn and “sextortion,” or threats to post intimate material, in a given month.
But Facebook also failed to take down multiple sites
where former and active Marines shared nude images of women without their consent, even days after the original site was revealed in a March investigation
. The site also faced criticism last year after taking down the iconic Vietnam war image “Napalm Girl,” which showed children, one of them a naked nine-year-old girl, running from a napalm attack by South Vietnamese forces. It quickly reinstated the photo. It has also had a long-running issue with censoring images of breastfeeding
, which its current policy deems “natural and beautiful
Facebook did not respond to a request for a comment.