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Facebook: Yes, (most) mastectomy pics are allowed

  • Facebook updates mastectomy image policy after outrage
  • Breast cancer group's photos of survivors had been deleted
Facebook: Yes, (most) mastectomy pics are allowed

"Breast cancer is not a pink ribbon," reads the blunt motto for breast cancer support group The SCAR Project. Its stunning black-and-white portraits of women who have undergone mastectomies show "a raw, unflinching face" of the disease and the women who are driven to defeat it.

The images are "powerful visual testaments to the real impact of breast cancer and the resilience of breast cancer survivors," says breast cancer activist and patient, Scorchy Barrington.

So last month, when photographs of women displaying their surgical scars started disappearing from the group's Facebook page and SCAR Project photographer David Jay was temporarily suspended from the site, an angry Barrington launched this petition demanding that Facebook "stop censoring photos of men and women who have undergone mastectomies."

Public policy: The many ways to get banned from Facebook

Jay posted that "Facebook has begun removing pictures from The SCAR Project page citing a violation of their policy. I personally have been banned from posting for the next 30 days. Disturbing."

Wednesday -- 20,000 signatures later -- Facebook responded with a commitment to allow the photos on the site, so long as they do not display "fully exposed breasts, particularly if they're unaffected by surgery."

"We agree that undergoing a mastectomy is a life-changing experience and that sharing photos can help raise awareness about breast cancer and support the men and women facing a diagnosis, undergoing treatment, or living with the scars of cancer. The vast majority of these kinds of photos are compliant with our policies," the company wrote.

Mastectomy portraits: Stories of courage and triumph

They added that previous instances of mastectomy photos being removed were usually "either by mistake, as our teams review millions of pieces of content daily, or because a photo has violated our terms for other reasons." Mastectomy images were not banned previously, but the new official policy now makes it explicitly clear that they are allowed. Well, for the most part.

"Everyone seems to be terrified of the female nipple," Jay told Time. He says the policy would still mean some of his portraits wouldn't be allowed.

Facebook's rules on breastfeeding images -- which have also kicked-up controversy in the past -- follow the same logic, barring any such picture where a "fully exposed breast" is visible, but otherwise allowing them.

The site's community standards lay out several other types of content which are barred, including hate speech, fake accounts, spam, credible threats, pornography or general "graphic content."

And now, mastectomy pictures don't fall into any of those buckets -- for which Barrington expressed her gratitude in an updated message posted at the top of her online petition.

"For me, a woman with Stage IV breast cancer, this is a victory I share with the 20,000 people who have signed my petition and the countless men and women who have this disease and who are newly diagnosed each year," she wrote. "We want the world to know that breast cancer is not a pink ribbon -- it is traumatic, it is life-changing and it urgently needs a cure."

More information on mastectomies and breast cancer:

Op-ed: This is why I'm getting a double mastectomy

Tattoo artist brings hope to breast cancer survivors

BRCA gene: From Angelina to one doctor's decision

Jolie reveals she had double mastectomy

Op-ed: How genetic breast cancer changed my life

Op-ed: I have breast cancer. I'm 39.

Follow Jonathan Anker on Twitter @JonFromHLN

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