CULTURE & ARTS

The Nude Painting That Facebook Really Doesn't Want You To See

At least, not on its platform.

Almost every story of Facebook censorship sounds the same. Man or woman posts nude painting to Facebook. Facebook removes painting, marking it as "suggestive content." Man or woman posts unhappy response to said censorship, but eventually gets over it and resumes normal social media presence. 

Frederic Durand-Baissas's story, though, is a little different.

The 57-year-old French teacher from Paris posted a very particular painting -- Gustave Courbet’s 1866 "L'Origine du monde" -- back in 2011. Facebook did indeed remove the post, and went as far as to suspend his account. But Durand-Baissas did not take the backlash lying down. Instead, he went to court, seeking to officially reactivate his account and secure $22,550 in damages. Why? Because he says the entire ordeal violated his freedom of expression.

"This is a case of free speech and censorship on a social network," Durand-Baissas explained to The Associated Press. "If (Facebook) can't see the difference between an artistic masterpiece and a pornographic image, we in France (can)."

In court, Facebook originally argued that users like Durand-Baissas can only file cases against the company in California, thereby refusing to acknowledge Durand-Baissas's concerns. Yet, a high court in Paris decided last week that the company's argument was "abusive" and excessive, and found that its reasoning violates French consumer law. The ruling upheld a lower court’s decision that French users have a right to sue Facebook under French law and, as a result, Durand-Baissas's case will be heard. 

The Philadelphia Museum of Art similarly felt the wrath of arbitrary censorship when it posted Evelyne Axell's "Ice Cream" on social media earlier this month. Facebook removed the painting of a woman eating an ice cream, claiming it contains "excessive amounts of skin or suggestive content." This happened shortly after a few art historians and artists banded together to promote Facebook Nudity Day.

"We remove photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks. We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring. We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures."

Despite the last sentence, Courbet's 19th century depiction of a woman's vulva might be too risqué for Zuckerberg et al. 

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