Facebook is an indispensable resource for people with similar experiences to come together to help one another tackle challenges as well as offer advice and support. Kerryn Gill-Rich, who's an active administrator of an Australian Facebook breastfeeding support group that caters to 30,000 women, knows that firsthand. But her relationship with the site devolved recently when she was reportedly kicked off Facebook for sharing an article about breastfeeding, according to Yahoo!. Now, the mother of four and her online connections are fighting back against what they view as an unreasonable reaction to two images of female nipples.
Because, of course, the content that Gill-Rich shared on the closed Facebook group Breastfeeders of Australia wasn't exactly sexual or otherwise inappropriate. Instead, it was a KellyMom.com article about a oftentimes painful condition called nipple blanching that is commonly associated with nursing. The piece explains that nipple blanching occurs when blood flow to the nipple is restricted, then it shares common causes, and offers ideas for treatments. It also includes photos of blanched nipples for reference. It's an element of the piece that's just as informative and helpful as the rest, but it's what reportedly earned Gill-Rich a weeklong Facebook ban each of the two times she posted it.
Romper has reached out to Facebook for clarification on its rationale for removing the content and banning its poster but has not yet heard back.
According to The Independent, Facebook cited a violation of its nudity policy when it promptly took down the content and temporarily banned Gill-Rich from the site. And Gill-Rich, for her part, was not having it. In an open letter to the social media giant posted by the group's founder Lauren Threadgate, Gill-Rich laments that she and Facebook "had a great thing going," as the group helps "breastfeeding women to find success in nourishing their babies and reach their breastfeeding goals," until she was booted off for doing just that.
That's when it all went south, the self-described "lactivist" wrote in the letter detailing her ban and working through what she said are inconsistencies in Facebook's policy:
Breastfeeding is in no way whatsoever sexual. It is simply feeding a baby in the most natural way possible, yet breastfeeding information is not in line with community standards? What is it exactly that's so offensive about breastfeeding? Given the amount of daily dinner plates that are posted on timelines, it can't be the FEEDING part that is of concern! But using THAT theory, the amount of breasts in timelines probably beats the pants off the butter chicken or steak and potato plates posted….. so I'm stuck! Is it the baby? Nope, they feature pretty predominantly on timelines too!!
SO…..WHAT IS IT THAT YOU TAKE ISSUE WITH?
It should be noted that the photo in question doesn't actually depict a mom breastfeeding; rather, it shows breasts in the context of talking about breastfeeding. Facebook, after all claims to find nursing "natural and beautiful" and insists that most associated photos are compliant with its policies. But, on the site's Community Standards page, it also states that applying its nudity standards uniformly sometimes results in content shared for legitimate purposes being restricted. Then there's the whole ban on the female nipple, according to its policy:
We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but our intent is to allow images that are shared for medical or health purposes. We also allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring.
This case seems to fall into a protected area, but it's unclear. Yes, the photos in the article that Gill-Rich shared do show female nipples (which, you know, #FreeTheNipple, but that's an argument for another day). But, arguably, the photos made their way onto the internet in the first place for "medical or health purposes," so it's unclear why they aren't protected under Facebook's policy.
Now, a Change.org petition is urging Facebook to "lift their ban and reconsider their double standards when it comes to what is appropriate and for Facebook to support breastfeeding."
It appears that Gill-Rich's ban has since been lifted, as her profile is back online. That's great news for breastfeeding moms who relied on her through Facebook for support and guidance.