Facebook changes policy to allow post-mastectomy photos

After facing a wave of criticism over its handling of mastectomy photos, Facebook has finally clarified its policy in writing. The social media site had taken down photos that users posted of breast cancer patients baring their scars and reconstructed breasts because they violated its legal policy of not posting content that contains nudity.

Scorchy Barrington, a New York-based woman diagnosed with end-stage breast cancer, garnered more than 21,000 signatures on her Change.org petition asking Facebook to “stop censoring photos of men and women who have undergone mastectomies.” She recently had a conference call with Facebook executives, which led Facebook to clarify its policies on mastectomy photos.

Patient advocacy groups like the Scar Project have seen their photos taken down repeatedly from their pages or had themselves temporarily barred from Facebook for posting topless women baring their scars or reconstructed breasts.

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Facebook’s mastectomy page says sharing treatment photos “can help raise awareness” about breast cancer and help support those living with scars and added that the “vast majority of these kinds of photos” comply with their policies.

But Facebook will still ban photos “with fully exposed breasts, particularly if they’re unaffected by surgery,” since they violate Facebook’s Terms.

In a press statement, Facebook executives said “they only review or remove 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.”

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