Mastectomy Banned From Facebook: Photos Of Breast Cancer Mastectomies Treated As Porn, Removed

Following actress Angelina Jolie’s declaration to the world that she underwent a double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer, one campaign developed the courage to do the same by posting powerful photos of cancer survivors on Facebook -- that is, until the social media giant removed them for having pornographic content.

David Jay, a photographer and founder of the SCAR Project, told NBC Tuesday that Jolie’s public disclosure prompted him to post photos of young women with scars from mastectomies on his Facebook page in the hopes to raise public awareness. However, Facebook pulled some of the photos from the project’s account due to nudity concerns, since guidelines enforce a strict ban on nudity and can remove photos of exposed breasts.

The photos, Jay said, "are what they are. I can't imagine anyone finding anything pornographic or sexualized or even offensive in any way." He said “within no time” of his posting, Facebook removed the images and banned him for 30 days, prompting a petition against the site. On Change.org, the petition filed a few weeks ago asks Facebook to change its policy so that photos of mastectomies are not treated as porn.

However, Facebook spokeswoman Alison Schumer told NBC the site has "long allowed mastectomy photos to be shared on Facebook, as well as educational and scientific photos of the human body and photos of women breastfeeding" as written in the Facebook Community Standards. Schumer went on to say that Facebook only removes “photos after they have been reported to us by people who see the images in their News Feeds or otherwise discover them.”

"On occasion, we may remove a photo showing mastectomy scarring either by mistake, as our teams review millions of pieces of content daily, or because a photo has violated our terms for other reasons,” she continued. Schumer said Facebook is “supportive” of the SCAR Project and will continue to “make the right and best decisions” for photos on the site.

Though many supporters of the SCAR Project have criticized Facebook for the move, the organization’s founder said he doesn’t “hold Facebook completely responsible.” Jay said during a conference call with Facebook that the site admitted that “obviously mistakes had been made” and have “always had the correct policy -- it just hasn't been implemented properly.”

"I think it's not lost on Facebook how important this issue is to so many people, and perhaps they'll spend some time internally educating their staff about the types of images the SCAR Project has," he said.

The woman who filed the Change.org petition against Facebook, New York author Scorchy Barrington, though, said women like herself with breast cancer find strength though these powerful images and should not be put in the same bracket as pornography. “Photos like those included in the SCAR Project help me feel a little less alone in what I’m going through. With so many young women facing breast cancer diagnoses, I know these photos give them hope, too,” she wrote in the statement. “By removing the photos, Facebook is sending us a message that our struggle with this disease should be kept in the dark.”

The petition filed by Barrington -- and addressed to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg -- has more than 8,000 signatures so far.

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