Facebook’s “political” and “nudity”: Two stories about art censorship

For the sheer fun of it, I had created an image of President Donald Trump as a pastiche on Andy Warhol, a little “old Warhol-style.” It took me about 15 minutes and there was nothing political about it – it was merely a fun exercise.

Here it is:


I posted it on my Instagram account and it was liked at least as much as most other stuff I post there. Then I got the idea to use it as an ad with a CTA – Click To Action – for people to take a look at my Instagram profile – a frequently used method to get people interested in who you are and what you do and then, perhaps follow you.

I designed it, put a few words on my ad, defined the audience to be reached and chose to promote it with US$ 20. And sent it off. It took twenty minutes, or so, until Instagram – which is owned by Facebook – sends me this message:

“Your ad was not approved because your Page has not been authorized to run ads with political content.” This is followed by two links, one on which I can appeal – which I did at no avail. The other tells me how to complete the authorization process (to publish ads with political content in the future.

But I do not use Instagram for any political purpose, also not for the foundation I’m directing, The Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research (TFF). Have never done so. I use it exclusively for things related to art – my own and somebody else’s. So, I did not try to be authorized to do ads with political content.

Let me make it clear: Instagram/Facebook did not prevent me from having this image on my feed. What they prevented is that it is used as image in an ad that aims to promote my Instagram account.

My problem with this is that Facebook decides to categorize this image as “political” and not as art. This means that any image of a politician – irrespective of the text and context – is “political.”

Now, if such an image of a politician re-done in Warhol-style is political – what could not also be judged as “political”?

Another problem is: What do the people at Facebook know about art and about politics? And is this at all decided by humans or does Facebook/Instagram use some kind of face/image recognition, alternatively AI (articificial intelligence) that “catches” such an image and automatically, without a view to purpose, text and context, deems this political?

I wonder because anyone with the minimum of knowledge about art would be able to see that the image itself is not political but, as I said, a quick exercise in artistic re-production, pastiche or – if anything – a caricature or poking fun of Andy Warhol.

We seem to live in times where across-the-board, digitally manipulated political correctness can be used anywhere by corporate and other interests (and governments) who are afraid of being “misunderstood” by someone somewhere.

I may not have monitored it all, but in my view there is far too little discussion about this type of clear-cut censorship of the arts. After all, it’s no small audience; as of June 2018, Instagram had reached 1 billion monthly active users worldwide.

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Here is another image – related to Facebook’s bizarre definition of nudity.

It was shot at Art Basel 2018, the world’s most important and largest art fair. It’s from an installation in one of the almost 300 exhibiting galleries:


Same procedure as above. Here is what I got back this time:

“Your ad wasn’t approved because it doesn’t follow our Advertising Policies. We don’t allow ads that depict nudity, even if it is not sexual in nature. Keep in mind that, except for statues, this applies to all educational and artistic forms of expression. How fix: We suggest using a different image or video and checking that the destination link is compliant too.”

So nudity, even it not sexual in nature, is prohibited! There goes a large part of Western art history – since it includes “all educational and artistic forms of expression”!

When you click the above link in the Instagram message it goes to Point 8 which deals with Adult products or services. But surprise, surprise! That point deals exclusively with ads for contraceptives!

This is how Facebook sees an unacceptable “suggestive” content for contraceptives in an art installation…

Take a look at my image. The figure playing the violin is a wax model, a dummy or whatever you’d call it, with a blond wig. It’s not at all a photo of a nude woman.

The context is perfectly clear, she sits a podium, there are works of art around and there is a person who walks around to perceive and judge about it as a piece of art.

To Facebook, this is nudity and nudity related to contraceptives at that! Just read Point 8 above.

Now, have fun and read also Facebook’s Point 9 about Adult content. Have a look at the pictures all of which are deemed ‘non-compliant’ – for being explicit artistic, showing a woman in a sexually suggestive pose, provocative and alluding to sexual activity.  Oh my!

One wonders in what century Facebook people live? Or whether they’ve asked some religious sect to advise them?

If it wasn’t so sad – and so important – for both art and freedom of expression, I would laugh my sure non–compliant ass off.

You would too. Please share. This is a policy non-compliant with any reasonable definition of art and it is implemented in bizarre ways – either by ignorant human fools or wrongly programmed AI.

It must go! As simple as that!


One Comment

  1. Pingback: Instagram and Facebook lack education in art – Oberg PhotoGraphics Blog

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