Outrageous Liberty

I’m 30 now, alright, so I can bust out a hackneyed saying quicker than I can say just about anything else. And here’s the one I’m saying right now – WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE WORLD!

I changed my Facebook profile picture yesterday to this:


It’s my 2-year-old daughter, dancing in her tiara.

This evening I couldn’t log into Facebook from my phone. I also had an email from Facebook saying I needed to log in from a PC so I could verify something. The email was alarmingly entitled “Facebook Warning” and written in dictatorial tones as follows:


You uploaded a photo that violates our Terms of Use, and this photo has been removed. Facebook does not allow photos that attack an individual or group, or that contain nudity, drug use, violence, or other violations of the Terms of Use. These policies are designed to ensure Facebook remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for all users, including the many children who use the site.

I figured straightaway that it must be the photo above that had been pinged. I had to click on a link in the email to be redirected to my account. It opened up with the “offensive” picture, and another notice warning against uploading “nudity and/or pornographic content”. At the bottom, I had to check a box – like a recalcitrant child – that said, “I agree I won’t upload photos like this again!” That’s actually what it said. Apart from everything else about this situation that annoys me, that right there almost tops it. Don’t make me tick a box to get back into my own Facebook, but word it with contractions, cute punctuation, and vague insinuations instead of discrete terms.

So, how does it work? Has someone actually flagged my photo? We figure most likely it’s been picked up by a screening algorithm that measures bare flesh, and is then forwarded to a human for final confirmation that it is indeed an “offensive” image. Whoever that person is, they’ve clicked delete and now my photo is gone. I understand everything uploaded to Facebook is there forever etc. But if they deign something is offensive and delete it, where does it go? And yes, I understand anyone with access to my profile can save any image I put up there and distribute it or display it or use it for any nefarious purpose they wish. But what does Facebook do with these deleted items? Do they have a big digital repository somewhere of actual offensive and pornographic images that now contains a beautiful picture of my innocent daughter amongst its filth? Because that worries me more than anyone being able to use my images in the first place.

The stupid thing is I’d already censored the photo. It’s full-length, and although I don’t particularly have qualms about posting full-length nudes of my young kids online (they’re cute!), I know it’s not really a done thing any more. So I cropped it so it was only her top half before uploading it to Facebook. How is this cropped version offensive or worrying in any way (with the possible exception of the cheap plastic tiara)?

I applaud Facebook and anyone else taking measures to protect children from predators – of course. But I do wonder why they didn’t try to contact me first to verify that it was my child, and above board. After all when I log in to Facebook in overseas countries (when I’m travelling for work), I usually have to verify my account by identifying photos of my friends. So it’s obviously not that hard to test my credentials.

The other stupid thing is that I’ve posted full-length nudes of my kids before, including shots of them bare-bummed (look away if you don’t like porn) in the… (I can barely say it, it’s so coarse) BATH and, heaven forfend, the paddling pool. I don’t know why those photos weren’t removed.

I accept ownership of any photos I upload to Facebook; in fact it’s one of the conditions, knowing that at the point of hitting “upload” a stake in the property rights (of the copy, at least) becomes Facebook’s. But more importantly, I accept responsibility for protecting my children’s wellbeing and protection. With that in the front of my heart with every action I take in this life, Facebook, give me some credit for not uploading anything which poses a threat to them on my own profile. You are not my children’s guardians. My husband and I are. I don’t know what groups or which people inform your policies and constitute your staff; I certainly have no reason to trust you as paladins of my children’s safety any more than anyone else online.


Yes, I know there are people out there who could get this photo of Zadie dancing with her brother to Spoon and use it for sinister inspiration. I guess. I can’t really see it, and perhaps that’s the failure that Facebook is protecting me from. But if I have to worry about people seeing this photo of Zadie, I also have to worry about trying little t-shirts on her in shops, taking her to the swimming pool, and indeed just living here, since it’s so bloody hot she’s generally always in her undies.

And. Do they take down photos of little topless boys? Or are their nipples less sexual than a little girl’s? Does anyone know? It occurs to me that I’ve posted plenty of “topless” photos of Rufus that have gone unchallenged, but only back-view photos of Zadie without clothes up to now.

I’m JACKED OFF. I really liked that photo. I thought I could censor it further in Paint to obscure the clearly monstrous NIPPLES and SKIN BELOW HER BELLY BUTTON (I can only guess at what particularly was suggestive of pornography). But in the end I didn’t post the Paint-doctored version (though I am tempted, to see if it gets removed) because you know what? It actually does look sexualised and vulgar:


Well done, Zuckerberg. You’ve turned an adorable moment into something coarse and distasteful.


15 Comments Add yours

  1. Rhi says:

    It’s an excellent photo and Zaidie is adorable! Shame on the Facebook robots.
    Facebook is crazy. My sister’s account was blocked and she had an email saying it was because she was using a fake name and that is not allowed… except that it wasn’t a fake one – just that we had hippy parents. She had to prove her name was real.
    There was also a huge hoohah a while back about people putting up pics of their kids breastfeeding, though you couldn’t see any nipple in most of them.
    What is the world coming to, indeed.
    Great post. x

    1. jadeluxe says:

      That fake name situation is even worse than this photo! What?! I see stupid names on there all the time (not implying your sister’s name is stupid – I mean names like “Melanie Isasuperstar Smith”).
      LiveJournal also tried to ban breastfeeding photos a while back. I guess I never really cared too much about this stuff until it happened to me. I tell you what, I was fuming last night!

      1. Rhi says:

        Was looking at my Facebook page and realised that my husband’s profile pic is of him in the bath with our daughter when she was 2! There are lots of bubbles everywhere, but definite nipples visible (hers, not his!) It hasn’t been discovered/deleted in the past 12 months, let’s see how long it lasts. It is also a totally innocent and fun photo, and we are cool with it being ‘out there’ for the world to see.

      2. jadeluxe says:

        I’m going to report you immediately. Perverts.

  2. Toni says:

    Sometimes I think the whole world is insane except for thee and me — and frankly, I’m a little worried about thee….

    seriously, I can’t for the life of me figure out how Facebook works, or why pictures of a naked child are acceptable in an art gallery but not on your own homepage?

    It’s weird.

    And I’m so SICK and TIRED of nannies protecting us.

    1. jadeluxe says:


      I’m irritated enough if it was a Facebook program that automatically detected the nudity. I’m totally pissed off if it was someone flagging me, which I suspect, since I don’t have a hidden profile.

  3. Astrid says:

    What!!! It is amazing the stuff that they leave up and they take down that.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      It’s true. I see that many provocative photos of adult boobs every day on there, can’t believe this could offend anyone.

  4. cinova says:

    While I understand your anger at the ‘facebook police’ and the apparent hypocrisy of this censorship, I feel compelled to remind the good folk of this world that child predators are very real and very sinister and the internet is now their main hunting ground. As someone who spent years counselling teenagers exposed to child abuse, and has read research about the sexualisation of children and prevalence of internet predators, I would support any initiative to protect children. I am not a parent, but I empathize with the frustration parents must feel at the fact that their parental role is usurped sometimes, and I also have concerns about the ‘nanny state’. However, as someone who has a 14yr old god-daughter and many friends with toddlers, I personally would hesistate before posting any ‘revealing’ images of these children. I would rather err on the side of caution than give the creeps and sickos anything.It’s unfortunate that we have to be restricted like this, but that’s the way the world is. I do agree that facebook could employ better means of communication that don’t make innocent people feel like they have done something sinister or wrong.

    1. khovenga says:

      Except that at least 95% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows and their family trusts.
      If we can’t put photos of our children on the internet for fear of “child predators”, how shall we protect them from these trusted “friends” and relatives?
      Perhaps we should stop our kids from being babysat or having sleepovers? Stop them from going on school camps and don’t allow them to hang out in the family bed or have their fathers supervise bathtime? We should “err on the side of caution rather than give the creeps and sickos anything”
      We can live our lives or we can live in fear. I choose life.

      1. jadeluxe says:

        ^ This.
        You can’t protect them from everything, you just can’t. I’m not going to make her wear clothes if she’s happier without, and I’m not going to stop sharing the pictures with my family/friends – until she’s at an age where I think she could be embarrassed.

      2. cinova says:

        Thanks for informing me of a statistic that I am well aware of (having studied and worked in the field, as I already mentioned). I won’t bother to reply with statistics of internet child pornography. A careful reading of my response should in fact reveal that I was not suggesting to parents that they stop living their lives and would never go so far as to suggest what you have about “school camps, family beds and bathtime”. As I have already said, I respect parental agency. I was merely reminding people of a scary truth and expressing how I personally would approach the sharing of images. That’s all.

  5. jadeluxe says:

    Thanks for the thoughts, Cindy. In this particular instance I feel that the photo is, really, so innocent that I would like to at least have been contacted. I would understand if it was an explicit photo but in their arbitration of what is offensive, this must surely be at the lower end of the scale. And my point about that is – and this will make me sound like a terrible parent – I posted that photo knowing that it could possibly be accessed by “bad people”. It’s a choice I made and have to make often as a parent. I can’t stop people taking photos of my kids at a swimming pool, the beach, running around our village in their undies, etc. It’s something we have to live with, educate our children about, and make informed decisions on. In this case I felt I made one, and I would have liked the chance to stand by it.
    It’s a really difficult one, isn’t it…

    1. cinova says:

      Yes, it is a difficult one. And I agree that the photo is innocent, as are all the pics you share. Your point about the seemingly random arbitration of ‘explicit’ is also interesting. This is so often a subjective judgement based on context and audience. Through my media teaching, I have examined censorship and the complex and highly emotive issue of the sexualisation of children (in advertising and the Bill Henson controversy). Anyways, I don’t want to make this into a huge issue that detracts from the cuteness and innocence of your kids, I simply wanted to recognise the salience and complexity of it all. Cheers.

      1. jadeluxe says:

        It is indeed extremely complex. After a couple of days, I probably wouldn’t have written exactly the same post as I originally did – moderation usually rears its head a little eventually with me. I would still post the picture though 🙂 Maybe the world was better off without the internet…NOOOOOOO!!!!!!

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