Oops! Facebook mistakenly censors Burning Man art

In a censorship FAIL, Facebook removes photo of nude sculpture from Burning Man but reverses decision later.

Elinor Mills
Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
2 min read
The photo that was removed from Facebook for violation of terms of use.
The photo that was removed from Facebook for violation of terms of use. Dave Simon

One of the most popular pieces of art at Burning Man two weeks ago was Bliss Dance, a 40-foot-tall metal sculpture of a nude dancing woman. Think Michelangelo's David, only female and lit up spectacularly at night.

A friend of mine, Dave Simon, posted one of his photos of the sculpture on his Facebook page in an album he set to be public. On Tuesday, after the photo had been up for five days, Simon got an e-mail from Facebook saying that the image was removed for violating terms of use, which ban posting photos that contain nudity.

"I was kind of surprised," Simon said on Wednesday. "There are other photos in my [public] albums that are far more risque."

Simon posted this version of his photo after the original was removed by Facebook.
Simon posted this version after the original was removed by Facebook. Dave Simon

After being contacted by CNET about the matter, Facebook quickly reversed the decision.

"Our reviewers look at thousands of photos a day that are reported to them. Of course, they make an occasional mistake," Facebook said in an e-mail statement. "This is just an example. Our compliments to the artist--the statue is quite lifelike. We encourage the person who uploaded the photo to repost it and apologize for any inconvenience."

Regardless of the censorship FAIL, the art itself is a technical and artistic marvel.

Bliss Dance weighs 7,000 pounds, is 97 percent air, and has 55,000 welds made by hand in a warehouse on San Francisco's Treasure Island. "No robots were used in the production," the artist, Marco Cochrane, joked in an interview with CNET on Wednesday.

The design, created using a low-tech pantograph modeling tool without the assistance of design software, is based on the structures of geodesic domes and has 4,500 ball joints attached to the steel mesh "skin" with screws. The sculpture, featuring a dancer balanced on one leg, is supported by six I-beams buried two feet under the surface in a radial pattern.

Bliss Dance in her illuminated blue incarnation.
Bliss Dance in her illuminated blue incarnation. D'Milo Hallerberg

There are 27 multi-LED lights placed throughout the inside of the sculpture, and external lights as well. The shifting colored LED lights are controlled from an iPad touch screen using a specially created program.

"When it's lit from the inside it looks hollow, and lit from the outside it looks solid," Cochrane said. "When there's a combination of those, it gets crazy."

Those who missed seeing the sculpture at Burning Man will get a chance to see it in person when it goes on tour, Cochrane said. He's also planning for next year's sculpture, which will be even bigger.