Press release

Brazil: ARTICLE 19 condemns censorship of protest by Facebook

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ARTICLE 19

31 Mar 2017

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ARTICLE 19 condemns the removal by Facebook of the above image from its post regarding the imprisonment of a protester in Brazil for using nudity as a form of protest.

ARTICLE 19 Brazil & South America had posted on its Facebook a link to its criticism of a court decision sentencing activist Roberta da Silva Pereira to three months in prison for showing her breasts during a “Slut Walk” protest in the city of Guarulhos in June of 2013 (you can read the article in question in Portuguese here).

To accompany the article, ARTICLE 19 chose an image by photographer Oliver Kornblihtt in which two women appear exposing their breasts during another “Slut Walk” protest, but this time in São Paulo. The image was also published on ARTICLE 19 Brazil & South America’s Instagram.

The decision to publish the photo was made to reinforce that nudity is a legitimate means of expression and protest, and therefore should not be subject to restrictions contrary to international human rights standards. In addition, nudity is used on many occasions to symbolise women’s long struggle not to have their bodies objectified and violated.

One day after its publication, the post was removed by Facebook and the same happened a day later on Instagram, a platform controlled by Facebook.

In ARTICLE 19’s view, the social network’s decision to remove the post is concerning, as it restricts the ability of users to share information on cases of public interest, and of ARTICLE 19 to fully and accurately inform the public about the ruling.

In its "Community Standards" section Facebook describes some cases for which a removal of content may be applied. In it the company says it may restrict "some breast images that show the nipples but have always allowed photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing the centuries after a mastectomy." This must be broadened to include women who use nudity to protest against their subjection to systematic violence  and objectification.

Although it is a private company, Facebook should comply with international standards on freedom of expression as it is one of only a few overwhelmingly dominant intermediaries of the online space for public debate today.

ARTICLE 19 condemns the removal of the image by Facebook and its flawed policy on content regulation, which is contrary to international standards on freedom of expression, and calls for this to be reviewed to better enable the public’s right to freedom of expression and information online.