Culture clash

Facebook suspends users over traditional Aboriginal ‘nudity’

Queen Elizabeth II watches as aboriginal women perform a traditional dance, to welcome her to Alice Springs in Central Australia. (Reuters)

Facebook has suspended the accounts of users who posted an article about Australian Aboriginal feminism, because an accompanying photo of women in traditional dress revealed their breasts. The controversy began after online publication New Matilda paired a keynote address by author Celeste Liddle, about “the intersection between feminism and indigenous rights” with an image of two women participating in a ceremony wearing traditional body paint and with bare chests.

Liddle’s speech had detailed an earlier incident in which Facebook had suspended her profile after sharing an image of Aboriginal women dancing, also with bare chests. After New Matilda published the piece last week following Liddle’s International Women’s Day speech, Facebook suspended Liddle’s account and that of anyone who shared the article. “So they’ve deemed this picture of Aboriginal women painted up culturally to be nudity and sexually explicit, which it obviously isn’t, it’s women practicing several millennia worth of culture,” Liddle told the ABC.

Ms. Liddle subsequently launched a petition, aimed at getting Facebook to review its policies and make them more culturally inclusive, but the petition was also removed from some posts after Liddle included the original photograph that had been deemed problematic under Facebook’s policies.

The popular social media platform, however, declined to reconsider their actions on the basis of culturally inclusivity. In a written statement, a company spokesperson said, “We are aware that people sometimes share content containing nudity for reasons like awareness campaigns, artistic projects or cultural investigations.

“The reason we restrict the display of nudity is because some audiences within our global community may be sensitive to this type of content — particularly because of cultural background or age.

“As a result, our policies can sometimes be more blunt than we would like, and restrict content shared for legitimate purposes.”

Luke Pearson, founding director of social media project IndigenousX, told the ABC: “…Facebook, who are just absolutely notorious for refusing to take down really horrific racist pages towards Aboriginal people, to ban Celeste for this photo is beyond ludicrous.”

Read the full story at the ABC.

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