Facebook apologizes for censoring doll's nipples

Jewelry designer is stunned when Facebook removes a picture of a porcelain doll sitting next to her jewelry, because the doll's nipples are visible. After a week, Facebook finally apologizes.

Chris Matyszczyk
4 min read

It has been established for some time that the folks at Facebook are not overly fond of nipples. Or, at least, of their public display. Or, at least, of their public display on Facebook.

Some time ago, there was much consternation over the absurdity of removing breastfeeding pictures that were displayed on Facebook pages. It seemed this week that the anti-nipple (female nipple) policy continued to be exercised with ruthless precision.

Ask Victoria Buckley. Buckley is an Australian jewelry designer who seems to be quite successful. She has her own, rather active, Facebook fan page upon which she features her wares, her ads, and, occasionally, her feelings.

Last year, Buckley launched her Ophelia Collection. The Ophelia in question is a creature specially created by artist Marina Bychova of Enchanted Doll. She "lives in a tiny enchanted world of beauty, surrounded by treasures of platinum and rose gold," says Buckley's Web site. In case I hadn't made it clear, Ophelia is a doll. No, literally.

However, she also happens to be a naked doll.

A promotional picture of her with Buckley's jewelry sat happily on her Facebook page for months until, one fair morning last weekend, she told the Sydney Morning Herald that she received six e-mails from Facebook telling her that the nipples were "inappropriate content."

The offending picture. Shocking. VictoriaBuckley.com

Buckley told the Herald that she had the same pictures, and even the doll itself, in her Sydney store for months and no one minded.

I should add that Buckley's jewelry is not cheap tat. And if you wanted to buy an Ophelia doll, even a naked one, this might cost you some 40,000 Australian dollars. However, as last week wore on, Buckley claimed on her Facebook fan page that Facebook continued to remove images, even though they were already censored.

"The images they are removing are already censored, but they are doing it to IMPLY I am breaking their guidelines. I suspect their next move may be to close this group even though I have been very careful to toe the Facebook line from the very moment I got a complaint," she wrote.

While a "Save Ophelia" Facebook group was quickly created, that was reportedly taken down too. Buckley believes that this whole Nipplegate affair may have been caused by just one sole, misguided complaint.


She told the Herald: "You can invest thousands of dollars and months of your time building a new campaign and you put it on sites like Facebook and Flickr and it just takes one person [complaining] to bring the thing down."

While Buckley has offered such tempered descriptions of Facebook's actions as being redolent of "philistines" and, gosh, no, "American puritanism," it is surely hard not to have huge sympathy for her cause. This is neither pornography nor anything even the remotest distaff dingbat might find offensive.

Buckley did offer the sage thought that "Somebody's got a Michelangelo fan group on there and they do have a picture of the statue of David...why is that OK and this isn't?"

Moved by her logic, I wondered whether Facebook really had a bias toward inanimate, artistic male genitalia, but not inanimate, artistic female parts.

I decided to investigate. Well, here's the thing. There are four Facebook members called David Michaelangelo. Each of them is so artistically inclined that he has a picture of the famous statue as his profile picture. Genitalia are clearly visible.

But I dug deeper into this murky world. I found at least 10 groups that cared profoundly for Michaelangelo's David. Each featured the same or similar full frontal shot of the big man. (I have posted one example here)

Naturally, that isn't all that lurks in Facebook's murky pages. For there is a group titled "I Want to Get It On with Michaelangelo's David." Should you even consider for a moment that this might have sexual connotations, might I emphasize that this group is featured under the Facebook banner of "Common Interest- Sexuality", where you will find lots of highly varied amusement.

You will, of course, be breathing with oceanic profundity while wondering what is the "Get It On" group's profile picture. It is a shot of David's firmly sculpted behind.

I believe many people at Facebook to be extremely nice, reasonable and progressive. In addition, I now spend every day with Mark Zuckerberg's dictum about the need to share more of myself as my guiding light. I therefore contacted Facebook for comment and received joyous and uplifting news.

Spokesman Barry Schnitt told me in an e-mail: "Our reviewers look at thousands of pictures a day that are reported to them. Of course they make an occasional mistake. This is just an example. We apologized and have encouraged the poster to put it up again."

Now, about those breastfeeding pictures and that weird group that wants to get it on with a statue.