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Instagram/@sukiwaterhouse
Instagram/@sukiwaterhouse

Meta says freeing the nipple is a basic human right

Instagram and Facebook are considering reversing their notorious nudity ban

It only took a decade of protesting, but Meta is finally on track to #FreeTheNipple. Earlier this week, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram announced that it has been advised to amend its nudity policy by none other than its own oversight board, in order to “respect international human rights standards”.

The decision comes nine years after Lina Esco’s 2014 film brought “free the nipple” into common parlance, with the support of everyone from Amber Rose to Jean Paul Gaultier. It stems, however, from a much more recent controversy: Meta’s decision to remove two Instagram posts – made by the same account in 2021 and 2022 – by transgender and non-binary people with bare chests.

The posts themselves didn’t even feature naked nipples, but showed a couple posing topless, with captions that supported trans healthcare and detailed a fundraiser for top surgery. According to Meta’s oversight board, the posts were reported by other users, and Meta ultimately removed both for violating the “Sexual Solicitation Community Standard”. The original posters appealed, and the posts were eventually restored.

Now, the oversight board has decided that removing the posts was “not in line” with Meta’s community standards to begin with, and that its infamous adult nudity policy represents a breach of the company’s human rights responsibilities. “This policy is based on a binary view of gender and a distinction between male and female bodies,” the board says in a statement. (Who knew?) It adds: “Such an approach makes it unclear how the rules apply to intersex, non-binary and transgender people.”

The lack of clarity in the policy is criticised by the board as impractical for moderators and confusing for users, who have to navigate a web of restrictions and exceptions when posting pictures of nipples. Exceptions reportedly include protests, scenes of childbirth, and medical contexts such as top surgery and breast cancer awareness – however, these exceptions are “often convoluted and poorly defined”.

Overturning Meta’s original decision to remove the two posts in question, the board concludes that “Meta’s policies on adult nudity result in greater barriers to expression for women, trans, and gender non-binary people on its platforms”. As a result, it recommends that the company changes its nudity policy “so that all people are treated in a manner consistent with international human rights standards, without discrimination on the basis of sex or gender”. Will Zuck take notice? Does Zuck even have nipples? Actually, never mind.