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painting Facebook the bad guys easy as 123

July 7, 2010

I have decided that the public opinion can sway so much these days and so significantly so quickly that if it was not for the profit motive incentivizing them that no company would dare compete on the internet for fear of accusation of some crime against humanity, being sued for breach of copyright, patent infringement, defamation or any other civil disagreement including claims that they abuse their users of privacy.

This is even before contemplating that the internet as marketplace that is still in its infancy and barely twenty years old and that many of the rules that apply today will be rewritten tomorrow. The internet also has powerful enemies in the form of the older established old legacy firms who either don’t want to adapt or find it difficult to adjust to the digital landscape. These firms are not standing idle as they see their market share diminish, now they are actively lobbing our elected officials armed with propaganda and solutions to harness this evil medium that is the internet.

I see this daily and like anything some of the biggest successes of the internet seem to also have caused the biggest controversies. I intend to cover two issues that I believe are non related but for some reason have become intertwined in the story about an Australian designer of high-end jewellery who has had promotional pictures of exquisite nude porcelain doll posing with her jewellery, removed from a Facebook fan page for posting what is constituted “inappropriate content” and breached the site’s terms of service.

This article originally appeared in the Melbourne Age on July 5th and your can read it here I will quote from the original article for context in my discussion of key points.

I think it’s a new journalistic passion for publications to write as negative articles regardless of the facts or the merits of the individual case when writing of the internet. In checking the author of this article Asher Moses I don’t believe this to be the case for him so this article really baffles me. The way I see it in the old media eyes Facebook, Twitter, Google and countless others are just upstart juggernauts that are hell-bent on destroying the old school media empires, and any story that can paint a negative picture is worth the manipulation.

The big issues at the moment concerning the internet is privacy and censorship and I feel that the facts surrounding these issues have been falsely interwoven into this particular story regarding Victoria Buckley and the Facebook banning of her promotion pictures.

The article starts out like Facebook are the culprits with this introduction

Facebook’s prude police are out in force yet again, this time threatening action against a Sydney jeweller for posting pictures of an exquisite nude porcelain doll posing with her works.Victoria Buckley, who owns a high-end jewellery store in the Strand Arcade on George Street, has long used dolls as inspiration for her pieces and hasn’t had one complaint about the A3 posters of the nudes in her shop window.But over the weekend she received six warnings from Facebook saying the pictures of the doll, which show little more than nipples, constituted “inappropriate content” and breached the site’s terms of service.

So Facebook have banned her pictures for being “inappropriate content” well that is their right, they have a terms of usage that Victoria must have agreed too, and they are exercising their right to act. I could quite likely have seen a similar article quoting alarm from another special interest group criticising Facebook for not acting. Obviously the images at the centre of the controversy are neither banned images or refused classification images under Australian Law and in an Age article on this story were described as showing “little more than nipples”

Really here we’re talking about nipples on a doll – I’ve got A3 posters of her in my window in the Strand Arcade that have been up for months and we haven’t had one negative comment. The doll herself is in the window,” Buckley said

The thing is that Victoria is conducting a business and I am sure that she makes decisions regarding that business that suits her needs just as Facebook that is also conducting a business has decided that this type of content is not welcome on their site. I don’t know if Victoria was paying to use the promotional benefit of Facebook and I suspect not, so really she has no course of complaint. However how hard would her would it to be to offer a G rated promotional material with the porcine dolls tastefully dressed, maybe even branch in to a children’s range the marketing opportunities are hers for the taking.

The article in the Age then goes on how puritan Facebook are and again as is their right have acted in their own interests, people have been up in arms over censorship by government and our own personal censorship or that of a private organisation is not the issue. Facebook have every right to dictate the terms of service as puritan as they may sound to Victoria, same as I choose what to publish or not on this blog as long as I don’t violate any Laws and the terms of service or WordPress. I know that the Melbourne Age exercised their journalistic right in sacking Catherine Deveny, Age writer dropped after Logies tweets

Then she explains that’s it should be OK for the nude dolls because they cost a lot of money, yes and so what you have chosen to use high-end dolls to sell your jewellery, and that might work in other mediums it’s just Facebook are saying they are nude, if they were dressed I am sure it would be OK.

And these aren’t just regular barbie dolls, they’re high-end porcelain figures designed by Marina Bychkova of Enchanted Doll in Canada, featured in art and culture magazines all over the world.Those who want to buy one face a two- to three-year wait. The dolls can cost from $5000 to $45,000, which is the price one sold for on eBay in January.“The shoe designer for Louis Vuitton collects her dolls and they’re really hard to get hold of; they’re really precious things, they’re not just a barbie or something,” Buckley said.

The article then covers that dolls are the inspiration for her jewellery and that she designs for the dolls, again fine Facebook not asking her to stop, they just don’t want pictures of nude dolls posted on Facebook.

So now we come to the part that she has accepted the warning from Facebook and posted some other marketing solution and she is monitoring the situation. She then has a little rant about how so unfair it is that just one complaint and her whole world collapses and  that it takes lots of effort to create these things and Facebook should again not be so puritan.

For now, Buckley has censored the images of the dolls on her Facebook fan page but has posted the uncensored versions on a new group dedicated to the doll called “Save Ophelia – exquisite doll censored by Facebook”.Buckley wants to gauge Facebook’s response to the images being posted on that group before deciding whether to put the uncensored version back on her own fan page.Her emails to Facebook have so far fallen on deaf ears, although this may be because Sunday is a public holiday in the US. Buckley had also posted the photos to Flickr but these were removed for similar reasons.“I’ve invested quite a lot of money in this campaign for my jewellery and I’m quite reliant on the Facebook page to get the message out,” she said, adding thousands of people had said they love the dolls and imagery.“You can invest thousands of dollars and months of your time building a new campaign and you put it on sites like Facebook and Flickr and it just takes one person [complaining] to bring the thing down.

I really think that Victoria just has to realise that the artificial rules created by other firms on the internet are no different to the one that she encounters every day in the real world. I wonder how far she wants to push this  wasting her time in a fanciful hope that Facebook will change its rules for her she really needs to move on, adapt and get back to what she does best designing jewelry.

However I think the kicker to this story was that in case you also thought like I that this article was a really a waste of time covered no new ground and some might say quite cynically this article  was actually a plug for Victoria’s jewellery range and that Facebook had done nothing wrong will love this.

Ironically, while Facebook is overzealous in targeting relatively innocuous images on the site, it has been criticised by police for its unresponsiveness to real criminal issues. The Australian Federal Police has said the site’s woeful relationship with law enforcement bodies was hampering police investigations and putting lives at risk.

So you see Facebook has been bad again, well not really but they are evil. What do you think? , leave me a comment

image altered


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