The year 1830. The French Romantic artist, Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix, created his masterpiece ‘La Liberté guidant le peuple’ (or Liberty Leading the People) in the autumn. The painting, commemorating the July Revolution of 1830 that toppled King Charles X of France, shows a woman – personifying the concept and the ‘Goddess of Liberty’ – leading the people forward over a barricade and the bodies of the fallen, holding the flag of the French Revolution in one hand and brandishing a bayonetted musket with the other. The figure of Liberty is commonly viewed as a symbol of France and the French Republic, known as Marianne.
This famous painting of the French Revolution has recently been used in an online promotion of a play. The Director of the play, Jocelyn Fiorina, alleged that Facebook blocked the promotional ad 45 minutes after his post went online. According to the director, the California-based online social media and social networking service company said that it could not show nudity. However, Facebook apologised for censoring the play advertisement, featuring the bare-breasted woman, later.
Censored by Facebook
Jocelyn said that he once again posted the ad with the same image (but) after covering the part of the woman’s breasts with a banner, reading: “Censored by Facebook.” Facebook didn’t block this post. Instead, it made a U-turn, saying in a statement that Delacroix’s masterpiece “rightly has its place on Facebook”. Facebook Manager in Paris Elodie Larcis issued a separate statement, stressing: “In order to protect the integrity of our service, we verify millions of publicity images each week and sometimes we make mistakes.”
It was not an isolated incident, as the social media giant is often challenged over its authority over content on its site.
A couple of weeks ago, a French teacher tried to sue the company for censoring his page after he posted a nude painting by Gustave Courbet. Although a local court in Paris threw out the case, it said that Facebook had made “a mistake”. According to the court, Facebook should specify to the user the reasons for its moves.
In other words, a seemingly unsocial task has to be performed by the social media to take ‘social responsibility’ seriously.
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