About two weeks ago, Facebook quietly revised its policy regarding obscene content to specifically allow photos of women breastfeeding. Previously, the site took down any photo containing an exposed female nipple regardless of context.
Facebook has long been the target of feminists complaining about the policy. Campaigns in 2012 and 2013 attempted to push the site into changing the rules regarding breastfeeding photos, creating the hashtag #freethenipple. One effort went so far as to organize live demonstrations of women breastfeeding outside Facebook office buildings. However, the campaigns met with little success. Facebook maintained that although it had no issue with breastfeeding, any photo which showed an exposed nipple that a child was not actively nursing from would be taken down.
It now appears that this policy has been changed, although Facebook made no official announcement regarding the subject. Any picture of a woman breastfeeding will not be considered a violation of the obscene content policy, even if the other breast is also exposed.
"We have always allowed breast-feeding photos. It is natural and beautiful and we know that it's important for mothers to share their experiences with others on Facebook," a Facebook spokesperson told CNET. "What we have done is modified the way we review reports of nudity to help us better examine the context of the photo or image. As a result of this, photos that show a nursing mother's other breast will be allowed even if it is fully exposed, as will mastectomy photos showing a fully exposed other breast."
Despite the policy change, Facebook's unreliable system for taking down content means that people posting breastfeeding photos may still run into problems. Posts are removed in response to reports from other users, and Facebook moderators don't always look too closely at the content before taking it down.
Parenting blogger Paala Secor posted a breastfeeding photo showing an exposed nipple specifically to test the revised obscene content policy. Within a day, her page was unpublished and threatened with deletion. Several hours later, a member of the Facebook Community Operations team restored the page and photo and issued an apology, claiming the page had been removed accidentally.
"Although I am certain more mothers will be flagged and photos will be deleted over the coming months, I feel liberated to have this barrier lifted on breastfeeding moms after years of tireless work by so many people," said Secor in a blog post. "I am happy to help the cause in my own way."