After censoring a Gerhard Richter nude on the Pompidou Center’s page last summer, Facebook is at it again. The social network removed a 1940 photograph of a partially nude woman from the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume’s page and even disabled the museum’s account for 24 hours because of its infringement of Facebook community standards.
The image, from the Paris museum’s current exhibition of photographs by Laure Albin Guillot, was removed on Friday. Afterwards, the Jeu de Paume reposted the photo with a black square covering the breasts and related what happened, adding that “we have already committed other violations previously, when posting nudes by Willy Ronis and Manuel Álvarez Bravo. With another warning from Facebook, our account is at risk of being permanently deactivated.” The museum’s solution? “Therefore we will post no more nudes, even if we think that their artistic value is great and that these photographs — which are not at all pornographic — respect ‘the right to publish content of a personal nature.’”
The media-focused blog Arrêt sur Images was not happy about the museum’s self-censorship. “So this is how a center for art and culture devoted to the history of photography agrees to censor itself to satisfy the requirements of the sexually repressed management of Facebook,” Alain Korkos wrote. “This is how a social network brought the Jeu de Paume to its knees.”
In fact, the museum’s responses have been somewhat contradictory. Museum director Marta Gili told Libération that it is not a question of self-censorship because “now, instead of putting up photos of nudes, we’re going to describe them, and, you’ll see, this will seem much more shocking to people.” But the museum also posted a letter on its Facebook page thanking its friends for their support and writing that “we are counting on this debate to lead to a review of Facebook’s ‘community standards’ and we will refuse in the future to submit to any kind of censorship.”
When Facebook took down Richter’s “Ema” from the Pompidou Center’s page, it was because the nude painting was mistaken for a photograph. (When the museum complained, the image was restored.) The question still remains as to why Facebook’s “community standards” allow nude paintings or sculptures but not nude photographs. Perhaps the bigger question is whether a huge global company can be said to represent a single “community” and whether these standards are really doing a service to Facebook’s nearly one billion users.
“Behind all this there’s an obsolete fundamentalism, a sort of religious radicalism that doesn’t want nudity, especially female nudity,” Gili told Libération. “Because it’s not a coincidence that it’s always women’s bodies that cause them problems.”
— Kate Deimling, ARTINFO France