Some weeks ago, I initiated a Change.org petition to address what I thought were problems with Facebook’s policy regarding images of mastectomy. A handful of images had been removed from The SCAR Project‘s page and the project’s founder, David Jay, was banned from posting for 30 days for being in violation of Facebook’s terms of service. In addition, some months ago Anne Marie Giannino-Otis faced a similar problem when she posted her own mastectomy images on Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer.
So many women have pages that help to educate women and men about the realities of breast cancer. Each, in their own way, actively pushes against the pink tide that focuses solely on awareness and early detection and keeps the reality of what this disease does to so many. But these images are vitally important in that each tells a story; and as they do, they begin to heal those affected and they open a healthy dialogue in the public and the private sphere. I did not want these stories silenced as the result of a vaguely written policy that left these images vulnerable to individuals who would report them because they were personally affronted. These images are posted within a particular context; this isn’t about sexualized breasts or objectifying women. This is, quite simply, about life and death.
As the number of signatures began to grow and media outlets picked up the story, Facebook reached out to discuss the issue. To be clear, the Facebook representatives with whom we spoke that morning were neither hostile to the issue of breast cancer nor to images of mastectomy. Far from it. But the fact remained that the Facebook policy on posting images of mastectomy was so vague and ill-defined that it provided little guidance to both the individuals at Facebook responsible for reviewing reported content and to those who wanted to post their images. [Please note: Facebook does not actively search for content to remove, but only reviews content after it has been reported.]
I am really pleased to tell you that conversations among Facebook representatives, David Jay, Change.org representative Stephanie Feldstein, and me have resulted in a much improved policy regarding the use of mastectomy images on Facebook. Where the former policy vaguely allowed images of “the mastectomy process,” the images are now correctly placed within the context of breast cancer and their importance in raising awareness of the real scourge of this disease and supporting those affected by it. This is critical as it will assist those whose responsibility it is to review reported content. And it will also help those who wish to post images of mastectomy on their personal pages. In a very real sense, this is a victory for both Facebook and its users.
As world events go, this is a relatively small thing. But this just goes to show that when we collaborate with one another on something bigger than ourselves we can effect really positive change.
Yes, we really can.