Facebook suspends users over 'nude' photo of Aboriginal women in traditional dress.

By Penny Timms. 

Facebook has suspended the profiles of people who shared an article about Aboriginal feminism, because it contains a photograph of two Indigenous women in traditional attire.

Facebook does not allow bare breasts in posts.

Celeste Liddle, a feminist and freelance author, gave the keynote speech at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre’s annual International Women’s Day address, and a version of her speech was published by online publication New Matilda.

“The main focus for the entire thing was the intersection between feminism and Indigenous rights,” she said.

When New Matilda published the speech, the outlet included a photograph of two women who were participating in a ceremony wearing traditional body paint and with bare chests.

Ms Liddle’s speech had mentioned a previous incident in which Facebook had suspended her for sharing an image of Aboriginal women dancing, who also had bare chests.

“New Matilda wanted to publish it because it was Indigenous feminism, and why they chose that image to accompany that photo was within the speech itself I spoke about last year how my page had been set upon by trolls and then threatened by Facebook because I’d posted up the preview video for the 8MMM comedy series,” Ms Liddle said.

“And Facebook removed the content because it has images of desert women painted up in traditional paint, doing traditional dancing.

“So the image accompanied that main point that I made, within the context of the speech.”

After New Matilda published the piece, Facebook suspended Ms Liddle’s account. It also suspended the accounts of users who had shared the article.

“They suspended it for reasons of nudity, so that’s the reason that they’ve given — nudity and sexually explicit nature,” Ms Liddle said.

“So they’ve deemed this picture of Aboriginal women painted up culturally to be nudity and sexually explicit, which it obviously isn’t, it’s women practicing several millennia worth of culture.”

Ms Liddle has attempted to contact Facebook about the issue, with no luck.

She said the company lacked understanding about Aboriginal culture.

Luke Pearson, the founding director of the social media project IndigenousX, said the situation was a shame.

“Unfortunately not much in this shocks me anymore, but clearly ‘disappointed’ I think would be the best response here,” he said.

“It’s a perfectly appropriate photo in context of an article that’s been written.


“And Facebook, who are just absolutely notorious for refusing to take down really horrific racist pages towards Aboriginal people, to ban Celeste for this photo is beyond ludicrous.”

Facebook defends its action

Ms Liddle has launched a petition, aimed at getting Facebook to review its policies and make them more culturally inclusive.

Ironically, users who share the petition are also facing suspensions.

“Within 11 hours it had already hit 10,000 supporters and it’s been quite widely shared,” she said.

“But funnily enough that petition’s also been banned on Facebook, or been taken down from some posts, because I did include the picture that New Matilda had used within their original news report to show what it was that Facebook is actually banning.”

Mr Pearson is hopeful that public support will force Facebook to have a change of heart.

“I think in situations like this, it really wouldn’t be difficult for Facebook or any other social media company to apply some practical wisdom, commonsense and basic respect,” he said.

“I am optimistic that there could be some movement here and clearly all it would take is anyone with half a mind to look at it and go ‘yep, we can understand the context of this photo, it’s perfectly appropriate’ and that should be the end of it.”

But Facebook has defended its action.

In a written statement, a company spokesperson said, “We are aware that people sometimes share content containing nudity for reasons like awareness campaigns, artistic projects or cultural investigations.

“The reason we restrict the display of nudity is because some audiences within our global community may be sensitive to this type of content — particularly because of cultural background or age.

“In order to treat people fairly and respond to reports quickly, it is essential that we have policies in place that our global teams can apply uniformly and easily when reviewing content.

“As a result, our policies can sometimes be more blunt than we would like, and restrict content shared for legitimate purposes.”

The statement concludes by suggesting that users share Ms Liddle’s speech without the accompanying photograph.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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