This morning, Facebook deleted a photo of a magazine cover that featured me for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As a full time advocate for breast cancer awareness, I am reliant on social media to help people become educated on the devastating effects of this disease. There was no notification, no inquiry as to the photo’s origins, no polite request to take it down. They simply deleted it, along with five other photos featuring cancer survivors. In each of these photos, the outlines of our bodies are visible but our breasts are fully covered by body paint. Flesh tones and nipples (which many of us no longer have) are completely and tastefully concealed under the incredible artwork of renowned photographer Michael D. Colanero and body painter Keegan Hitchcock, the geniuses behing the Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project. There are countless Facebook ads that appear unsolicited showing women in sexually suggestive poses far more revealing than my photos. Millions of men appear bare chested on Facebook with no fear of recourse.
As a two time survivor of cancer, I am hurt and offended. As an advocate and speaker, I am determined to speak out against one of the largest human networks in the world standing between people and information that can save lives. Facebook’s entirely irresponsible process of removing content based on unsubstantiated complaints without review is endangering the public health. Facebook is no longer just a fun distraction; it is a source of news and information that hundreds of millions worldwide rely on. With this success comes a responsibility to approach free speech and advocacy for public health in a more cautious and deliberate manner.
I want to know how Facebook plans to live to their responsibility to protect free speech and ensure that an open and informative dialog can take place on their network.