How Facebook decides which images to allow

Wondering why your Facebook breastfeeding image was blocked, but not the image of a deep wound your friend posted? Wonder no more. A leaked document reveals the weird, arcane, and extremely detailed guidelines used to determine which images are Facebook-safe.

Facebook bans images of breastfeeding if nipples are exposed – but allows "graphic images" of animals if shown "in the context of food processing or hunting as it occurs in nature". Equally, pictures of bodily fluids – except semen – are allowed as long as no human is included in the picture; but "deep flesh wounds" and "crushed heads, limbs" are OK ("as long as no insides are showing"), as are images of people using marijuana but not those of "drunk or unconscious" people.

Facebook's nudity and violence guidelines are laid bare (via Naked Capitalism)


  1. Way to protect your users, Facebook. Keep images of them breaking the law smoking weed but remove images of them not breaking the law. Could this have something to do with their advertisers being liquor companies? I’d have no idea because the last time I logged on there was months and months ago.

    1. Ye, I don’t think it’s Facebooks job to protect you from the law.

      Also, people smoking weed are fundamentally inoffensive.  Drunk people on the other hand are a nuisance and a mess.  I’d put ‘drunk’ in the same category as ‘high on meth’ in photography terms. In legal terms of course things are reversed, but when considering actual morals and logic, it’s perfectly sensible.

      1. “I’d put ‘drunk’ in the same category as ‘high on meth’ in photography terms.”

        What.  Seriously?  Comparing being passed out drunk to high on meth?!  Do you know what meth is?

      2. Also, people smoking weed are fundamentally inoffensive.

        You clearly haven’t had as many roommates as I have. Giggling incessantly while eating everybody else’s food gets old fast.

        1. While there’s no defense for being irresponsible and immature with marijuana (and the known consequences: i.e. the munchies), I would suggest that you could do a lot worse than a giddy, food-gobbling roomie.

  2. How utterly bizarre they don’t allow photos of “drunk or unconscious” people. Nipples I can understand (they’re a US based company after all), but drunk or unconscious? Can’t be true. I’ve seen photos of people asleep and/or drunk up there.

    Is this document legit?

  3. While I’m here, has anyone else noticed how the comment box supplied by Disqus stops working completely on an iPhone the moment you enter more text than the box can display?

    The whole text box stops responding and nothing short of a browser restart will fix it. :-(

      1. Well, he’s on BB. Isn’t it useful to know that _your commenting system_ doesn’t work properly for some users?

        1. Yes. And I’ve noted it. But if your toilet is clogged, do you call your real estate agent without bothering to call your plumber?

          1. If the toilet in a place I’m visiting is clogged, I tell the owner of the place and not the manufacturer of the toilet, even if the toilet is leased as a service.

      2. Discus might listen to you more than to some random commenter on the Web, considering that it’s BB that has the choice of which commenting system to use, not the commenter.

        1. I complain to them a lot.  They’re polite about it, but I’m sure that they regard me as a troublemaker.

  4. Facebook is a social disease created by a person who has nothing but contempt for his users. Its AOL-like ending can’t come soon enough. It’s incomprehensible that this ‘company’ is worth anything at all.

  5. This is actually surprisingly sensible and straightforward, much more so than usual. I take it the no-naughty-parts thing is an American twist that also exists in other media, e.g. broadcast TV. Apart from that, pretty good; wonder why they didn’t make it public in the first place?

    (Not that I’m a big fan of restrictions like these, but as far as arbitrary lines go, this one is better than most.)

    1. Except that it’s a, you know, “leaked document”.

      If Facebook has a set of rules for images they allow and others they yank, why aren’t they making it public to their users (who could then know in advance whether their pics are going to be “safe” for Facebook and post their pics elsewhere instead)?  Why hide their policy?

    2. Picture of *very* dead person; OK.  Picture of mother feeding her baby: not OK.

      How is this sensible? 

      1. Relatively, considering their environment. They _are_ in America after all, where there are hordes of god-fearing mothers shouting “won’t somebody think of the children?”

        They will allow wounds but no evisceration — as good a place to draw a line as any. Keep in mind that this is for somewhat “public” images that a user actually has to flag as inappropriate.

        But what do I know; we have porn on broadcast TV here and I don’t think we’re any worse off for it.

  6. It really is all about context, isn’t it?  Women’s breasts are perceived as being sexual objects in the US, so that’s what they must be.  If they happen to be used occasionally for an off-label purpose such as nursing, well, we can’t encourage non-sexual perceptions, now can we?

    In the same way, animals are for killing and eating, so as long as the context is clear — have no fear: this mangled animal will be eaten — then no amount of violence is too gory.

    It’s not the object that matters: it’s the subject.

    1. Women’s breasts are perceived as being sexual objects in the US, so that’s what they must be. If they happen to be used occasionally for an off-label purpose such as nursing, well, we can’t encourage non-sexual perceptions, now can we?

      So it’s a matter of vigorously defending the breast brand.

  7. Facebook is kind of unpredictable about my pictures. Pictures of stitches, blocked. Pictures of the scar afterward, (fully clothed,) blocked. Pictures of nipple piercings, not blocked. Landscape shot of an empty beach, blocked.

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