Facebook Censors Scientific American

Apr 10, 2013 • Culture, teh inetrwebz, web

Facebook censors Scientific American

Two days ago, Scientific American ran an article on their site about recent research on the impact of penis size on female evaluations of male attractiveness. Some time later, they posted a link to the piece as a status update on the social network Facebook.

Then update disappeared.

This afternoon, Scientific American issued a statement on their Facebook account about the incident:

Facebook reached out to us to say that a committee of reviewers made the decision to delete our post about a research paper on penis sizes, not an algorithm. The issue was the graphic that accompanied the story, which showed computer-generated images of nude men. FB only makes narrow exceptions for nudity–you can post a photo of Michelangelo’s David, for instance.

“Facebook has a strict policy against the sharing of pornographic content and any explicitly sexual content where a minor is involved,” read the social network’s Community Standards. “We also impose limitations on the display of nudity. We aspire to respect people’s right to share content of personal importance, whether those are photos of a sculpture like Michelangelo’s David or family photos of a child breastfeeding.”

Apparently, though Facebook sometimes allows renditions of the nude male figure in works of art, they consider it a breach of their standards to share images of the nude male body in relation to research and education.

This is a problem.

  • Michael Habib

    This move concerns me on a wide variety of levels. Beyond the obvious issue of censorship, the idea that digitally rendered (i.e. not even real individuals) approximations of nude males for a research study would be more offensive than a sculpture boggles my mind. I am going to go highly speculative and wonder if some anti-intellectualism is also involved here (on top of the obvious discomfort with basic human anatomy). Presumably FB admin became involved following complaints. It seems strange to me that there would be so many complaints for this particular case, unless the idea of researching sexual appeal was particularly unappealing to many readers/viewers, which I’ll bet it was.

    • avflox

      These are very valid concerns — we saw the backlash against studies of duck genitalia not too long ago (http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/04/duck_penis_controversy_nsf_is_right_to_fund_basic_research_that_conservatives.html) and we know how much the conservative right despises academia. We live in a country where political and religious leaders alike continuously bash higher education and efforts to pursue knowledge.

      How did Pat Robertson put it when he was asked why we don’t have more miracles in the U.S. while people in Africa do? “Cause people overseas didn’t go to Ivy League schools! We’re so sophisticated. We think we’ve got everything figured out. We know about evolution, we know about Darwin, we know about all these things that say God isn’t real. We know about all this stuff and if we’ve been in many schools, the more advanced schools, we have been inundated with skepticism and secularism. And overseas they’re simple, humble, you tell them God loves them and they say ‘okay he loves me.’ And you tell them God will do miracles and they say ‘okay, we believe you.’ And that’s what God’s looking for. That’s why they have miracles.” (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/04/why-are-there-so-few-resurrected-corpses-in-the-united-states/274681/)

  • http://www.facebook.com/antistokes Allison Stelling

    @6a29a63001004d63fc6c5085bf3f0b91:disqus It’s because Americans are still allergic to the thought of “penises” in general. (Even the very word is Verboten in many circles!) It’s tragic, really. Sexual selection is what lead to the robust human phenotypes we see today!

    • avflox

      And it’s not just penes that are subject to censorship — let us not forget that Michigan’s House of Representatives decided to bar Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield), from speaking on any of the bills the House was attempting to pass because she used the word “vagina” while discussing one of them: http://biz152.inmotionhosting.com/~slanti5/vaginas-are-forbidden-in-michigan/

  • Stacey Hamilton

    Meanwhile they are quite comfortable with misogynistic pages glorifying rape & assault of women. FB? /quit.

  • Shawn Magowan

    I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, yes, I think censoring an entire post because of the image associated with it is wrong. On the other hand, it’s a private site, and they have the right to decide what content is posted there. I don’t consider the image pornographic, or offensive, and perhaps the people that reviewed the post don’t either. Do I think they should have pulled the post? No. Do I think they had every right to pull the post? Yes, even if the reasons for pulling it are misguided and wrong.

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