Topless women protest Facebook’s rules in South Korea
Facebook apologises after deleting an account over a photo of a topless woman after protesters argue that it allows men’ naked torsos
By Lee Kyung-min
A group of female protesters went topless in a rally in South Korea against Facebook protesting its “discrimination,” based on a policy that bans posts showing women’s breasts but allows men’s naked torsos. Ten women wearing masks and sunglasses carried signs that read, “Why do you delete posts in which I willingly showed my breasts?” and “Set me free from what is virtually a modern corset,” near company headquarters in Gangnam, Seoul.
Soon after photographers and police arrived, the protesters lined up and took off their T-shirts to show a Korean character drawn on their chests to deliver the message “My body is not pornographic material.”
Police forcibly covered the women with blankets despite fierce protests, with some women shouting, “Why are police officers covering us? Why do they keep suppressing us?”
The highly “liberal” move came about a week after Facebook unilaterally deleted an account that posted a message with a photo of a topless woman, slapping the account holder with a one-month suspension.
Facebook said the post violated company policy on uploading photos containing naked body parts and sexual acts. “Facebook is used by all age groups, which is why we need to create an environment where a majority of people feel safe,” the company was quoted as saying. “We understand the women’s group and where they are coming from. We must delete the topless photos for now.”
A company representative can delete photos and the company’s artificial intelligence-based software recognises problematic postings and alerts officials.
The account user said such a stance was precisely what they sought to break because the photo was taken to highlight the “distorted” social perceptions that subject only women’s body parts to “objectification” or “voyeurism,” not as physical body parts. The user posted the photo taken on June 26 at a street rally supporting women’s rights, celebrating menstruation. The woman was part of a larger group that advocated more liberal views on women.
“Facebook defines women’s body parts as pornographic material, but that obviously does not apply to men’s bodies,” she said. “Such a discriminatory policy should be abolished. Women’s body parts should be allowed for posting, just as male body parts are.”
Meanwhile, the street protest drew mixed responses from passers-by. Some said the women were understandably protesting a “conventional” social norm that had long oppressed women, while others said the provocative protest was too extreme.”I have long considered it was somehow unfair that women not wearing a bra are considered promiscuous,” one said.”I know for a fact that in previous feminist movements in Western countries, women burned bras as a symbolic gesture to speak out against the long-unaddressed, unchallenged issue.” While feminist bra-burning is largely a myth, it illustrates a sense of deep frustration shared by women.Facebook later recovered the deleted photo and apologised for what it claimed was a “mistake.”