In a statement published this week, the board suggested the platforms make changes to their Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity Community Standard so that it is “governed by clear criteria that respect international human rights standards”.
“The restrictions and exceptions to the rules on female nipples are extensive and confusing, particularly as they apply to transgender and non-binary people,” the board, which advises the platforms on content moderation decisions, wrote.
The board called on the social media platforms to overhaul the current policies regarding nudity, which prohibit users from posting images of bare breasts, after Meta removed two Instagram posts from a couple who identify as transgender and non-binary.
According to the board’s statement, the posts, which were uploaded in 2021 and 2022, featured images of the couple posing “bare-chested” with their nipples covered. The images were accompanied by captions about transgender healthcare, and included mentions of efforts by the couple to fundraise for top surgery.
“Following a series of alerts by Meta’s automated systems and reports from users, the posts were reviewed multiple times for potential violations of various Community Standards,” the statement said. “Meta ultimately removed both posts for violating the Sexual Solicitation Community Standard, seemingly because they contain breasts and a link to a fundraising page.”
The couple appealed the decision to Meta and the board, with the board overturning both of Meta’s decisions.
In researching the decision to remove the posts, the Oversight Board said it had found that removing the posts was not in line with “Meta’s Community Standards, values or human rights responsibilities”. After the board accepted the cases, Meta found it had “removed the posts in error and restored them,” according to the statement.
The board also noted that the current policies are “based on a binary view of gender and a distinction between male and female bodies,” and that “such an approach makes it unclear how the rules apply to intersex, non-binary and transgender people, and requires reviewers to make rapid and subjective assessments of sex and gender, which is not practical when moderating content at scale”.
According to the board, the “extensive and confusing” rules around female nipples means that exceptions to the policy, such as “protests, scenes of childbirth, and medical and health contexts, including top surgery and breast cancer awareness,” are “often convoluted and poorly defined”.
Currently, the board states that “the same image of female-presenting nipples would be prohibited if posted by a cisgender woman but permitted if posted by an individual self-identifying as non-binary,” which means reviewers will “likely struggle” to apply the rules.
If the social media platforms are to “respect international human rights standards” through their policies, the board recommends that Meta “adopt an approach to adult nudity that ensures that all people are treated without discrimination on the basis of sex or gender identity”.
The board’s recommendation that Meta define “clear, objective, rights-respecting criteria” so that all users are treated “without discrimination on the basis of sex or gender,” follows a decades-long campaign by the #FreeTheNipple movement to change Meta’s policies.
In a statement to Yahoo, a representative for Meta said its policies are “constantly evolving”. “We are constantly evolving our policies to help make our platforms safer for everyone,” the representative said, adding that it “welcomes” the board’s decision, and recognises that “more can be done to support the LGBTQ+ community”.
The Independent has contacted Meta for comment.