Images released on social media for International Women’s Day by Pink Ribbon Deutschland, to promote breast self-exams and raise cancer awareness, were quickly removed from Instagram because the posts did not “follow the community guidelines” of the platform.
The “Check It Before It’s Removed” campaign aims to bring attention to a common method that can help detect breast cancer in its early stages. While there is no data showing breast self-examinations can prevent breast cancer, cases of breast cancer in women are increasing in developing countries where most cases aren’t diagnosed until the later stages. In 2011, 508,000 women died from breast cancer alone, according to the World Health Organization. If breast self-examinations can get women to find breast cancer earlier, it could be a useful method to increase chance of survival.
Social media platforms Instagram and Facebook both claim that images of female breasts violate their nudity policies. Instagram’s community guidelines state , “we don’t allow nudity on Instagram… it also includes some photos of female nipples.” Images of women breastfeeding are deemed acceptable, but the breast cancer campaign pictures — although posted for public health reasons — were deemed inappropriate and removed from the platform.
A number of women are fighting back against the stigma around images of breasts. Free the Nipple, a documentary released in 2014, argues that women should be allowed to be topless wherever men are, in public and on the internet. Since the documentary was released, celebrities and artists have joined the movement, posting their own topless pictures to social media and tagging them with #FreeTheNipple.
Pink Ribbon Deutschland, based in Germany, was founded in 2010. The organization aims to raise awareness about breast cancer, but they focus on reaching out to healthy young women. Of every 100,000 women in Western Europe, 89.7 are diagnosed with this form of cancer, compared to 19.3 per 100,000 in Eastern Africa, according to WHO.
Images were removed from @pinkribbon.deutschland, @girlslove2run and @denisedaiszduck Instagram accounts at the time of publication, but remain on Facebook.