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Censorship trumps art? Facebook blocks 'Statue of Neptune' photo, dubs it explicit

News Agencies | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 5:47 IST

Facebook has blocked the photograph of a 16th-century statue of Neptune posted by an Italian art historian, claiming it as "sexually explicit". However, the social media giant later apologised saying the censorship was a mistake.

Elisa Barbari had chosen the statue in the Italian city of Bologna, which shows Neptune naked and holding a trident, to illustrate her Facebook page "Stories, curiosities and views of Bologna."

But she was asked to remove the photograph as it fell foul of Facebook's privacy policies, the Daily Telegraph reported on Monday.

"The use of the image was not approved because it violates Facebook's guidelines on advertising. It presents an image with content that is explicitly sexual and which shows to an excessive degree the body, concentrating unnecessarily on body parts," Facebook said in a statement.

"The use of images or video of nude bodies or plunging necklines is not allowed, even if the use is for artistic or educational reasons," it said.

The artist responded to the statement on her Facebook page saying: "With incredulity, posting on her Facebook page: Yes to Neptune, no to censorship."

"I wanted to promote my page but it seems that for Facebook the statue is a sexually explicit image that shows off too much flesh. Really, Neptune? This is crazy!," she said.

"How can a work of art, our very own statue of Neptune, be the object of censorship?" she asked.

"Back in the 1950s, during celebrations for schoolchildren graduating, they used to cover up Neptune," Barbari added.

"Maybe Facebook would prefer the statue to be dressed again," she said.

However, a Facebook spokesperson later said in a statement that the censorship was a mistake.

"Our team processes millions of advertising images each week, and in some instances we incorrectly prohibit ads. This image does not violate our ad policies. We apologise for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ad."

Facebook's overzealous censoring software has brought the social media giant into controversy with increasing frequency, even as it faces intense criticism on another front for doing too little to prevent the spread of "fake news".


First published: 3 January 2017, 4:29 IST