The news was all over the place, but in case you missed it, here is a summary. Facebook, the behemoth social network forever worried about its users’ behaviour like an overprotective (and very nosy) mom, has quietly lifted the ban on graphically violent images. Analysts say the decision was probably taken in order to show that the company does not select or control the contents posted online, thus differentiating itself from a traditional publisher. This apparently small detail would have major repercussions on Facebook’s legal status in case of litigations, protecting it from any request of damages compensation and other court hassles.
There is only one little problem. In a matter of days, thousands of people began uploading questionable and even gory photos and videos to their profile pages. One user in particular posted a stomach-churning video of a man beheading a woman. Obviously many people were incensed and signalled the clip for removal – yet the social network managers denied their requests. «Since the content is denouncing violence and doesn’t glorify it» they explained «we won’t oppose the right of free expression of the person who uploaded it».
We could debate at length whether this stance is appropriate or not for the adult public. Given that Facebook’s user base begin (officially) at 13, however, it doesn’t sound very sensible. Also, beside the risk of exposing children to severely shocking images, this stinks of hypocrisy to high heaven. However it is but a small price to pay for free speech, isn’t it? Well, think again.
Although the social network is once again accepting of ethically revolting pictures such as, say, dogs dragged to death by cars, it is still censoring anything remotely related to sex. The company’s automatic picture recognition robots are forever scouring the profiles looking for porn – and when they find it, they make sure the page gets nuked. This double standard toward adult content would be puzzling enough, but there is more.
Have you ever heard of the story about the bathing girl whose elbows were mistaken for tits (yes, seriously) and got booted? And what about the museums that cannot use Facebook to inform their public about world-famous nude artworks? Or the breastfeeding mother who was censored because of her «indecent» behaviour? It’s all in a day’s work for Facebook.
This incredibly puritanical view is a glaring symbol of the incomprehensible, unrealistic removal of sexuality from everyday life. This is not just a problem with a social network’s policies: it is a symptom of an ill culture. No sane person can really think that watching Mexican drug cartel violence videos is more acceptable than appreciating a nude human body.
I keep stumbling on this issue in my job. News outlets that happily rant about homicides, wars and other crimes every day steer clear of the possibility of having me as a columnist «because your themes are too shocking and controversial»; every single time I hold a conference there are fundamentalists opposing the mere possibility of discussing sex under a positive light; my very alias is something I use mostly to keep the people I love out of harm’s way after the repeated threats from right-wing extremists who ramble about punishing me for my line of work. And all of this is considerednormal.
I do not advocate unrestrained debauchery – far from it, in fact. But I have often witnessed what any psychologist knows: repressing your sexual instinct is the fastest route to neurosis, violence and dangerous behaviour, while a healthy, critical and comprehensive culture about sexuality leads to a serene empowerment. Which is, after all, the very reason why sex is condemned in the first place.
Do you need a practical example of what use a mature view of sexuality is for? Well, maybe you want to read this post again. And think about what the outrage about a video means for you. And maybe, just maybe, become an activist for a day and talk about it with your friends. You’ll be amazed, I promise.