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January 9, 2009

Nipples in your Face(book)!

Posted: 11:15 AM ET
iReporter Phil Hansen protested Facebook with this image of himself made up of his own nipples.

iReporter Phil Hansen protested Facebook with this image of himself made up of his own nipples.

By now, you've probably heard about the latest controversy on Facebook.  It's not the war on terror or the war on scantily-clad profile pics of barely legal "18-year-olds."  It's the war on nipples.

The social networking site is under fire for its policy of removing photographs on the site that show mothers nursing their babies.  The company claims breastfeeding photos violate its decency code.

The controversy perked interest on December 27th, when 11,000 people worldwide held a virtual protest on Facebook by posting breastfeeding profile pictures and updating their status lines to "Hey Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!"  A nurse-in was also held at the company's headquarters in Palo Alto, California.   Now a Facebook group called "Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!(Official petition to Facebook)" has ballooned to more than 154,000 members and counting.

iReporter Phil Hansen is among the lactivists against Facebook.  "I was surprised at the whole idea of removing breastfeeding photos, as a baby breastfeeding would totally cover the nipple and most the breast," says Hansen.

Hansen is a Saint Paul, Minnesota-based multimedia artist known for his viral Web videos.  You may remember "Bruce," in which he dips his hands in black paint and karate chops the canvas, forming an image of martial arts film legend Bruce Lee.

Now Hansen is busting Facebook's chops with the first video in his new series called Art Happening.  In "Facebook's War on Nipples," Hansen documents his creation of a self portrait made entirely from pictures of his own nipples.  He posts the final product to his profile on Facebook and waits to see if it would be taken down.

We find out what happens in Hansen's cheeky follow-up video in which he declares defeat in the nipple war.  It turns out that Hansen's profile picture is removed after only two days, and he is notified that he had violated the company's terms of use.

"I was expecting it to get removed," says Hansen.  "Because if it stayed up, that would mean my face made with nipples was more appropriate than a mother breastfeeding her child, which would just be weird."

I don't want to give away the nipple, er plot twist at the end of the video, but I'll just say that Facebook suffers a slip of its own.

CNN did ask Facebook for an official comment about the controversy. A representative e-mailed the following statement:

We agree that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful and we’re very glad to know that it is so important to some mothers to share this experience with others on Facebook. We take no action on the vast majority of breastfeeding photos because they follow the site’s Terms of Use. Photos containing a fully exposed breast (as defined by showing the nipple or areola) do violate those Terms and may be removed. These policies are designed to ensure Facebook remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for all users, including the many children (over the age of 13) who use the site. The photos we act upon are almost exclusively brought to our attention by other users who complain.

Read more about the controversy on

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Gene Roinick   January 12th, 2009 1:03 pm ET

Why are we so uptight in this country regarding the human body? Breastfeeding is a natural way for mothers to feed their children and are we are so puritanical that we need to ban this act from print. What's next, banning topless men wearing bathing suits at the beach because their nipples are showing? People need to get a life.

athame   January 12th, 2009 1:30 pm ET

I honestly don't see why it's so important for people to post pics of themselves breast-feeding on any type of public site. That is private and I for one do not want to see it. Why not post a cute pic of your baby instead? I think people take freedom of speech a bit too far nowadays.

hillary   January 12th, 2009 1:34 pm ET

A breast is a breast, and if women shouldn't be showing theirs, why are men allowed to have shirtless photos?

A woman having a photo of breastfeeding isn't anywhere near as offensive as young girls in nothing but thongs and itty bitty string tops.

Ryan   January 12th, 2009 2:03 pm ET

Amazing...simply amazing. The people of my country never cease to amaze me. We can get 154,000 people to protest in the fight for nipples on facebook, and then a whole bunch of people to sit here and argue over weather it's right or wrong, but never ever to protest against the real injustices going on in this country. Everyone wonders why the big bad politicians, corrupt police, etc. just walk all over people. We don't see 154,000 people protesting over getting our troops home, or the severe civil liberty violations committed by the current administration. Nooooo, but plenty of people will come on CNN's blogs to cry and moan about them. But God FORBID anyone should mess with our social networking sites. That's a line you just don't cross. Perfect proof that this country cares about our mindless entertainment, reality shows and nipples rather than the issues that concern our freedoms to do such things. I guess that Americans will protest long as it's not difficult.

To comment on the issue at hand, I agree with the protestors. But then again, why on earth would you put a picture of you breastfeeding your baby on there? I mean seriously, no one really wants to see that. Sure it's natural and beautiful and blah blah blah...but I think a picture of you simply holding your little angel is just fine. The vast majority of people aren't interested in feeding time. Family, friends, or otherwise.


Pam   January 12th, 2009 2:40 pm ET

I saw some of the pictures. A woman in her bikini bottoms and no top with a baby hanging off her boob is not "breastfeeding" It's bottom-feeding and all of this " breastfeeding is beautiful" protesting is crap. You all know what we are looking at. Mothers nursing do not in general make a pictorial for general publication.

Kei   January 12th, 2009 2:44 pm ET

I have to agree with Facebook here. There's no reason that you need to show off your breastfeeding pictures. You're not showing them off because they're "beautiful." You're showing them off for attention. Focus your energies on a real issue.

And yes, in society, male nipples are not considered obscene, but female nipples are. That's why bathing suits cover the bottom for men, and both the chest and bottom for female. Get over it.

If you want your nude body all over the internet, there are plenty of sites that will allow it.

The Frog Prince   January 12th, 2009 3:56 pm ET

This is utterly stupid. There are massive amounts of full nudity on hundreds of Facebook pages. Most of the nude pictures are used to generate activity in applications such as "Friends for Sale" and "Hotties for sale". People upload the porn pics, the value gets jacked up, then they delete the pic. But, during the interim, anyone can view and by the time Facebook is prompted, they are deleted.

Samael Zhichao   January 12th, 2009 4:12 pm ET

Ken, my whole point is as thus. FaceBook cries about breastfeeding but I can see more exposed breast on the underage girls on their site then I can on the breastfeeding mothers. I have no objection to FaceBook saying no to the pictures of breastfeeding mothers but they should in turn say no to the other pictures that are soft core kiddie porn.

Michael   January 12th, 2009 4:30 pm ET

I want to know what kind of socially stunted loser "reports" an image of a breast.

Rachel G   January 12th, 2009 4:49 pm ET

please remove my email address for this thread. I am tired of receiving email updates daily. I have tried to hit the manage my subscription button, but it says I need some kind of a key. Thanks!

Ken   January 12th, 2009 5:39 pm ET

Samael – Facebook is not censoring all photos of women breastfeeding. Only those who are showing nipple. If you are seeing nipples on underage girls on Facebook, then you should report it and I'm sure they will take force removal.

Karl Denton   January 13th, 2009 1:29 pm ET

This whole thing is stupid and I agree with the person who brought up the point at after the "wardrobe malfunction"!

We are living in the land of "Conservatopia” since then and I knew it was a downward spiral when I hear one of our find Congressmen declare that the statue of Lady Liberty had to have her bare breast covered to protect the innocent.

What a freaking laughing stock we have become for the rest of the world.

Franko   January 13th, 2009 4:05 pm ET

Is Face(book) public or private, behind bolted doors ?
Al Capone's night clubs, in the era of Prohibition, privated the drinking

Showing Private parts, nipples included, sell a lot of magazines
However, a mother breastfeeding, reminds us that we are still babies

jon C   January 19th, 2009 9:18 am ET

it's all to protect the 'mythical 8 yo' who may stumble across the pics and be scarred for life....

JoAnn   January 26th, 2009 2:08 pm ET

I feel that breast feeding is a natural thing to do for your child. I do not feel it should be displayed throughout the world. It is a very personal dicision for one to make. When the photos are given out by one it should be in good taste. There are some that go way to far with their pictures. This has nothing to do with your body it has to do with the health and nurishment of your child.

Beaver   January 28th, 2009 5:31 pm ET

It is clear to me that the main issue here is an unreasoning aversion to the female breast.

As it has been pointed out by several astute posters, breastfeeding is the natural way of feeding a baby. There has been no discussion on whether pictures of other feeding is acceptable. What about children eating pizza, or hamburgers, or hotdogs. Since most posters are complaining only about pictures of breastfeeding as being inappropriate – and somehow wrong – I have to conclude the issue is they are hung up about breasts and nipples. But, only female breasts and nipples.

So posters, be honest about your prejudices. You think that it's wrong for females to display their breasts, but it's ok for men. How is that equality for women.

As for the posters comparing eating and defecating, well... while they are related in that one is the beginning of the digestive process and the other the end, the analogy is akin to comparing apples to oranges. Eating is openly done in public by the vast majority without comment. Defecating is relegated to private chambers, also by the vast majority. They are not the same function, so you'll have to try again.

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I agree.I think that all photos on facebook should be looked at before they are even allowed to be posted.If you have to post a sleezy picture of yourself on face to be noticied,then you probably are not even worth the time to look up.I hate the fact that women are looked at as a piece of meat instesd of what they truly are.Men are only partial blame for this,its the women who put themselves out there like that who makes its bad for every other woman out there.

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Banned from Facebook: Did you know a picture of an egg is considered nudity/pornography? | unlatched.   August 27th, 2013 11:28 am ET

[...] I'm not even sure if those are acceptable, because in 2009, an artist named Phil Hansen posted a mosaic of his face made out of his male nipples on Facebook and it.... [...]

Are you keeping track? Yup, banned from Facebook again! | unlatched.   August 29th, 2013 10:46 am ET

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