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Facebook’s latest front in the war on nipples: banning historic Indonesian photos

Swayed by tradition.
  • Steve Mollman
By Steve Mollman

Weekend editor

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Indonesia has seen a flurry of censorship of late. The government—urged on by religious hardliners—forced the messaging app Line to remove LGBT-themed virtual stickers. On TV, a broadcaster blurred out parts of beauty pageant contestants—a thigh here, cleavage there—even though they were wearing traditional Indonesian garb.

This week, Facebook joined in. Dea Basori, a 23-year-old dental student in Jakarta, created a photo album in her Facebook account called “The Culture of Real Indonesian Women.” In it, she posted historical photos she found online of women in traditional dress, some from the mid-1900s. The pictures, being old, were of a generally poor quality, but they did reveal “a valuable aspect of Indonesian history,” Basori wrote on her blog.

Problem: Indonesian culture wasn’t shy about naked breasts back then—and Facebook is. (Women going topless was common in many of the cultures that are now part of Indonesia.)

Basori soon found her account blocked, with a message stating, “When you joined Facebook, you agreed to follow the Facebook Community Standards. Your account has been disabled for not following these standards…”

Facebook also sent her examples of offending photos she had posted:

Facebook has been purging women’s nipple shots for years; the policy sparked protests from breast-feeding women as far back as 2007, and inspired a #FreetheNipple campaign and an artist’s project to replace female nipples with male ones online.

Basori wrote:

…how is it considered sexually explicit to upload pictures of Indonesian women in the past society where the picture was taken within their normal daily life? There shouldn’t be an intimidation towards individuals who [are] genuinely eager to educate the public with Indonesian history.

In Indonesia, “society nowadays is becoming more extreme and radical towards certain issues from culture to women’s rights,” she told Quartz.

Quartz has reached out to Facebook for comments or clarification but has so far received no reply. Basori has appealed the blocking of her account.

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