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Facebook finds breastfeeding offensive

Culture

Breastfeeding provides great benefits for mother and baby: nutrition, protection from illness, fewer allergies, and reduced risk of some cancers for mom. It’s economical and promotes special bonding between mother and child. God even uses the image of a mother and nursing child to describe the joy of Jerusalem’s nourishment and satisfaction in His provision in Isaiah 66:9-13.

But social media giant Facebook lumps breastfeeding with sexually explicit adult content and censors it. Carolyn Honea, a certified lactation counselor in Davidson, N.C., started a Facebook page to promote her support services and encourage new moms to breastfeed as long as they are able. On Oct. 24, she posted the following on her timeline: “Please help me reach 100 likes! If you have any pregnant or breastfeeding friends please share this page and encourage them to ‘like’ it so they can get breastfeeding support and tips.” She then tried to promote the post as an advertisement for additional visibility. The following day, Facebook responded: “Your Post wasn’t promoted because it violates Facebook’s ad guidelines by advertising adult products or services, including toys, videos, or sexual enhancement products. The post remains published, but it is not running as an ad.”

Facebook has a policy that allows breastfeeding pictures as long as the baby is attached. But Honea didn’t include any pictures of breastfeeding women in her post, and the pictures on her site include no nudity or policy violations. Facebook is censoring the post’s content, though company representatives weren’t specific about which words they found objectionable.

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Honea said other lactation specialists have encountered the same response from Facebook, and advertisers of breast pumps and training materials have also found their items labeled sex products. Earlier in October, 5,000 members of a lactation support group found their page shut down. Facebook has rejected appeals to reconsider policies and separate breastfeeding from adult content.

Despite its strong stance against breastfeeding, Facebook is more lenient on things users find offensive. The company recently came under fire for allowing someone to post a graphic video of a man beheading a woman in Mexico. This month, several major advertisers complained when their products appeared on pages that joked about raping women. Facebook responded to the outrage by taking down the video and removing the advertisements from offensive pages.

Honea hopes that publicizing Facebook’s lack of common sense on the breastfeeding issue will result in enough public outcry that the company will consider a policy change or at least clearer guidelines for lactation counselors.

“I want Facebook (and society as a whole) to stop making breastfeeding women feel ashamed or like it is something to be hidden,” Honea said. “Instead of constantly trying to censor it, I would like them to adopt a policy that supports and encourages open discussion and social sharing on the topic of breastfeeding throughout their site.”

Cheryl Keen
Cheryl Keen

Cheryl, who lives in Maryland, is married with two children and seven grandchildren. She has been executive director of a pregnancy resource center for 17 years.

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