Facebook has a long and tortured relationship with breasts.
Now women around the world have decided to tell the site to grow up. They are staging protests in order to get Facebook to change its policies against breast-feeding pictures.
It was in 2008 that Facebook first seems to have gone around removing breast-feeding pictures from the site.
At the time, Facebook claimed it couldn't allow pictures of breasts on a site where teenagers roam. Its stance has become more nuanced over the years. These days, its rules state that breast-feeding pictures are OK, as long as they don't feature "an exposed breast where the child is not actively engaged in nursing."
However, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that some of the world's mothers believe their pictures have been flagged as inappropriate and their accounts shut down a little too often.
So they have organized "nurse-ins" around the world. And they're using Facebook to coordinate their activities.
The idea behind the nurse-ins is to have as many mothers as possible go to their nearest Facebook office and breast-feed outside it.
The Facebook page announces, for example, that Facebook's Madison Avenue, New York, office will be garlanded by a protest on Monday. It also offers that Singapore will host one of these nurse-ins outside Facebook's HQ there on Tuesday at 10 a.m. I wonder how the local authorities might enjoy that.
The main focus of the protests is the Facebook page of breast-feeding activist Emma Kwasnica of Vancouver. She says her account has been shut down four times and that 30 of her pictures have been flagged as inappropriate. The problem with that, of course, is that anyone can flag any of your public pictures as inappropriate.
Kwasnica told the Chronicle: "This is discrimination. There's no other way to look at it. We're being treated as pornographers. Breast-feeding moms, especially ones with infants, spend hours a day with their children at their breast. They're not trying to be sexually explicit. This is just part of their everyday lives."
A Facebook representative said that honest mistakes do occur, especially as more than 800 million people are on Facebook. Some would add another "especially": especially as Facebook doesn't actually have all that many employees for its vast alleged worth. The company also explains that its breast rules are akin to those of many other media outlets.
Kwasnica insists that what she is doing is perfectly normal. She told the Chronicle: "People share their whole days on Facebook, when they're eating, where they're eating, pictures of them feeding their kids spaghetti. We just see this as feeding our children."
A couple of weeks ago, she enjoyed a conference call with Facebook, but she still came away dissatisfied.
She told the Huffington Post: "It is obvious to me now that Facebook really has lost control of their network, especially when their written policy clearly states they support the sharing of breast-feeding images, yet they say they cannot control the actions of their employees who keep removing breast-feeding images and who block accounts of the users who post them--usually 'in error.' This is exasperating to me."
I am not sure that every mother would enjoy putting her breast-feeding pictures up on Facebook. The question, though, is whether these pictures could possibly harm anyone.
Will anyone in Facebook's offices around the world claim that, with the protesting breast-feeders outside, they were hurt or offended? I somehow doubt it.
Perhaps it might be an idea for Facebook to do nothing about breast-feeding pictures for a trial period of, say, three months, and see if anyone really minded.