Anyone strolling near Astor Place in New York Sunday was in for quite the surprise when they approached the building where Facebook and Instagram are headquartered in the city.
Artist and photographer Spencer Tunick teamed up with the National Coalition Against Censorship on public nude art installation #WeTheNipple, aimed at urging Facebook and Instagram to relax their restrictions on nudity when it comes to content from artists including photographers, sculptors and painters.
Male nipple stickers were used to cover female presenting nipples, and male nipple cards obscured all of the participants’ genitalia.
The NCAC said on a website promoting the event, “Platforms like Instagram allow up-and-coming artists, and all artists without access to traditional methods of distribution, to reach global audiences on a scale unimaginable to earlier generations. Museums and art institutions can open their collections, and promote shows, to ever-widening audiences. Particularly for photographers, Instagram has opened new worlds of exploration and expression.”
The group continued, “Banishing all photographic images of the nude human body from social media, even when some of these images are in the collections of the worlds’ top museums, imposes an anachronistic regime of shame and censorship. We ask Facebook and Instagram to remove that mantle of shame and update its community guidelines/standards so to allow for artistic creativity to thrive.”
NCAC executive director Christopher Finan also sent a letter to Facebook vice president of global policy management Monika Bickert, which read in part, “We acknowledge that moderating content for billions of users with diverse values presents unprecedented challenges and that drawing the line between art and images that are not art is notoriously hard. But this challenge does not justify banning all photographic images of the nude body—a ban that imposes the beliefs of some Facebook users on the entire world, stifles artistic expression and enforces gender discrimination by permitting images of male nipples while prohibiting female nipples.”
Finan went on to propose, “As a commitment to changing its policy on photographic nudity, we propose that Facebook convene a group of globally representative stakeholders including artists, art educators, museum curators, activists, as well as Facebook employees to develop guidelines that transparently balance the competing interests of the many different communities Facebook serves. By engaging with relevant stakeholders who share a commitment to change, Facebook and Instagram can implement a policy that recognizes the value of one of their core communities: creative artists.”
A Facebook spokesperson said, “We have been in touch with the NCAC in the lead up to Sunday’s demonstration. We look forward to continuing the dialogue with NCAC and other affected groups in more detail.”