Breastfeeding on the menu for Facebook

Breastfeeding was on the menu this morning at the Facebook headquarters in Dublin, as a group of nursing mothers, babies, fathers and supporters gathered outside to protest against the deletion of images depicting breastfeeding and the suspension of accounts. These actions are often linked to the reporting of images as inappropriate by other Facebook users.

The Dublin gathering was one of over 30 similar protests taking place around the globe, to highlight perceived discrimination against breastfeeding mothers on the social networking website.

Protesters and press were initially invited into the lobby of the building by members of the Facebook team but the protest moved outside again when Facebook staff asked the press to stop interviewing and recording the event inside the premises.

Mothers and babies protesting at the Facebook HQ in Dublin

Mothers and babies protesting at the Facebook HQ in Dublin today

Chris Finn, the national coordinator for the Friends of Breastfeeding group, spoke on behalf of the group saying that they wish there weren’t here today because breastfeeding should be such a non-issue:

“It’s only a big deal because of people who don’t understand it, they don’t realise that their attitude is a big part of the problem. Milk is food, not human waste, if you want to compare breastfeeding to something normal, compare it to eating your dinner because it’s only a baby having their dinner.”

Ms Finn went on to say that Ireland has the worst breastfeeding rates in the world and that the HSE and World Health Organisation both recommend breast feeding to age 2 and beyond.

A statement from Facebook released after the protest expressed understanding for the importance of breastfeeding and said that the vast majority of photos posted to the site comply with their Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

A spokesperson for the company said that its policies have to fit the needs of a diverse community: “Photos upon which we act are almost exclusively brought to our attention by other users who complain about them being shared on Facebook. We have a team of user operations around globe, some of them in Dublin, who enforce platform policy.”

“I run a large breastfeeding support group and we were threatened with deletion twice,” said an administrator for Dispelling Breastfeeding Myths who joined the protest in Dublin. “I want Facebook to change their policy and say clearly that they support breastfeeding as normal and also train their staff to tell the difference between a breast being used in a sexual context and a breast being used to feed a child.”

Facebook says its policies are clear when it comes to breastfeeding: if the baby is engaged or on the nipple then the photo is acceptable if there is no other nudity. If not then it breaks their rules and may be removed:  “There have been occasions where something was accidentally deleted and we have apologised for it.”

Fiona Harford, the membership secretary of Irish charity Friends of Breastfeeding, came with her 9 ½ month old daughter Ava as a coordinator of this protest because she finds Facebook’s policy contradictory.

She says Facebook keep deleting photos that contain no nipple or areola and just show a child nursing. Worse, the company sometimes suspends the account. To get back into the account, she explains the owner has to admit they did something wrong, which is very hurtful when you’ve just put of a photo of your beautiful baby.

“We are just asking Facebook to make sure that their staff is trained on the policy, that they understand how hurtful it can be to people and that people who are reviewing the photos ensure those photographs aren’t deleted.”

Facebook doesn't like us

Facebook doesn’t like us

The social network giant says that with 845 million people around the world, some as young as 13, their policy must strike a balance, respecting views of a huge range and diversity.

But protester Gabrielle Ferguson-Clarke, who came with husband John and baby Sadie, thinks it’s worrying that people are concerned that a child may see a woman breastfeeding on Facebook. “That’s the normal biological thing to do. If a child can see a picture of a baby with a bottle in its mouth, then it should be able to see a breastfeeding picture as well.”

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About monicaheck
Monica Heck is a bilingual freelance writer and journalist based in Dublin, Ireland.

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