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January 9, 2009

Nipples in your Face(book)!

Posted: 11:15 AM ET

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/08/art.facebook.irpt.jpg

caption="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 iReport.com.

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Filed under: computers • Internet • technology


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