Meta (Facebook) sign is seen at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California

People have been fighting to #FreeTheNipple on Instagram and Facebook for years. Now, Meta‘s Oversight Board – a group of academics, lawyers, and rights experts – have recommended that the company update its rules around adult nudity to “respect international human rights standards”.

In a statement on Jan. 17, the board recommended an overhaul of Meta’s Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity Community Standard, advising that the company put forth “clear, objective, rights-respecting criteria” regarding its policies in this area, “without discrimination on the basis of sex or gender”. The decision comes after the board examined two posts from an account belonging to an American couple who are non-binary and transgender.

The posts – one shared in 2021 and the other in 2022 – displayed the couple topless but with their nipples covered. The captions featured a discussion about transgender healthcare and gender-affirming surgery. These posts were flagged by users and later removed for violating “the Sexual Solicitation Community Standard,” seemingly due to a fundraising link for said surgery.

Instagram restored the posts after the couple appealed and after investigating, the board overturned Meta’s original decision, stating that both cases “highlight fundamental issues with Meta’s policies”.

The Oversight Board operates independently from Meta but is funded by the company, advising them on content moderation. In the group’s statement, it said, “The restrictions and exceptions to the rules on female nipples are extensive and confusing,” and even more so when it comes to transgender and non-binary people. Examples cited include posts about breast cancer awareness, top surgery, childbirth, and protests.

“…the Board finds that Meta’s policies on adult nudity result in greater barriers to expression for women, trans, and gender non-binary people on its platforms,” reads the post.

Instagram and Facebook’s rules have seemed more arbitrary over the years, with exceptions made in some instances and less reinforcement in others. Female nudity has always been more staunchly censored on the platform, and continues to be.

Back in 2020, Instagram altered its nudity policy after backlash against its censorship of plus-size Black women on the platform. After a sweeping campaign from activist Nyome Nicholas-Williams, the policy change allowed for breast hugging, cupping, and holding to be shown in posts. In 2021, the Oversight Board updated nudity policies on Facebook, allowing for some nuance and permitting “health-related nudity”. This wasn’t exactly a win but a step forward.

This new guidance could mean the ban on nipples and bare breasts may soon be a thing of the past. And it’s been a long time coming.

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