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Meta told to 'free the nipple' on Facebook and Instagram and lift ban on bare breasts

Meta told to 'free the nipple' on Facebook and Instagram and lift ban on bare breasts

The social media platform has been told to make a change to its censoring rules

Meta has been told to clarify their policies surrounding nudity on their social media platforms.

The recommendation was made by Meta's Oversight Board which noted that certain censorship makes for 'greater barriers to expression for women, trans, and gender non-binary people on its platforms'.

While recommendations from the Oversight Board are not binding, Meta is required to issue a public response and follow-on action to the Board's policy advice.

The oversight board released a statement titled 'Oversight Board overturns Meta's original decisions in the "Gender identity and nudity"' cases on Tuesday (January 17).


The decision came about after one account, ran by a trans and non-binary couple, posted two photos on Instagram in 2021 and in 2022.

The photos in question 'feature images of the couple bare-chested with the nipples covered' with a caption discussing transgender healthcare and a 'fundraiser link' to pay for one of the couple's top surgery.

After several alerts to the post and reports by Instagram users, Meta reviewed the content in line with their Community Standards and subsequently removed both posts for 'violating the Sexual Solicitation Community Standard'.

In their statement, the board announced that they'd 'overturned Meta’s original decisions to remove two Instagram posts depicting transgender and non-binary people with bare chests'.

Following this, the couple appealed to Meta and then took it up with the Oversight Board, who ultimately agreed that they had wrongly removed the posts and eventually restored them.

A couple had posted two pictures on Instagram in 2021 and 2022.

A key finding from the incident was that the Oversight Board declared that 'removing these posts is not in line with Meta’s Community Standards, values or human rights responsibilities'.

They also addressed the 'confusing' rules around nipple censorship on the social media platforms, noting: "This creates confusion for users and moderators and, as Meta has recognised, leads to content being wrongly removed."

Explaining the behind-the-scenes of their policy, the board also explained that within this particular case - the post was 'sent for human review by an automated system trained to enforce the Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity Community Standard'.

This standard can often 'prohibit images containing female nipples other than in specified circumstances, such as breastfeeding and gender confirmation surgery'.

However, the Oversight Board admitted that the process is 'not practical' and revolves around 'subjective assessments'.

The rules were considered 'confusing' when applied to transgender and non-binary people.
Cum Okolo / Alamy Stock Photo

They said: "This policy is based on a binary view of gender and a distinction between male and female bodies.

"Such an approach makes it unclear how the rules apply to intersex, non-binary and transgender people, and requires reviewers to make rapid and subjective assessments of sex and gender, which is not practical when moderating content at scale."

It continued: "The lack of clarity inherent in this policy creates uncertainty for users and reviewers, and makes it unworkable in practice."

While the Oversight Board overturned the original decision to remove the posts, they also recommended that the company 'define clear, objective, rights-respecting criteria' so that everyone is treated in a 'manner consistent with international human rights standard'.

A Meta spokesperson told UNILAD: ""We welcome the board’s decision in this case. We had reinstated this content prior to the decision, recognizing that it should not have been taken down. We are constantly evaluating our policies to help make our platforms safer for everyone. We know more can be done to support the LGBTQ+ community, and that means working with experts and LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations on a range of issues and product improvements.”

Featured Image Credit: @thefutureisfeminism_/Instagram/REUTERS/Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: News, Facebook, Instagram