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Stone Age Statue Was Too Racy for Facebook

How can a company be expected to arbitrate "fake news" when it can't even tell ancient artifacts from porn?

Album / Oronoz/NewscomAlbum / Oronoz/NewscomA pudgy little figure with wide hips and ample breasts, the Venus of Willendorf was discovered in 1908 but originally dates to the Stone Age. One of the oldest surviving art works in the world, the limestone sculpture now resides in Vienna's Natural History Museum, where a woman named Laura Ghianda snapped a pic last December and then posted the image to Facebook.

It was promptly removed. A notice from Facebook explained that the naked figure was inappropriate for the social site.

According to the company's official policy, "photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures" are allowed. But despite four attempts by Ghianda to appeal the image's removal, Facebook wouldn't budge.

The Natural History Museum also appealed to Facebook. "There has never been a complaint by visitors concerning the nakedness of the figurine," Christian Koeberl, the museum's director general, posted in January. "There is no reason...to cover the Venus of Willendorf and hide her nudity, neither in the museum nor on social media."

The museum's plea also failed to get a reaction from Facebook. But after news media began running with the story this week, the company finally caved. On Thursday, a spokesperson for the company told AFP that it had been a mistake to censor the Venus of Willendorf's image and apologized for the error.

This is far from the first time the site has censored artistic depictions of nudity (sometimes even leading to a user's account being banned from Facebook entirely), and surely won't be the last.

As a private company, Facebook is of course entitled to remove whatever imagery it pleases. But the inability of Facebook's algorithms and human moderators to distinguish obscenity from ancient artifacts provides yet another reason to doubt Facebook's ability to police "fake news."

Lately, politicians and activists have been calling on the social network to somehow stop the spread of misinformation, to be more proactive in determining what is and isn't a credible news source, to rate stories for trustworthiness, to suss out "Russian trolls," etc. Who would make these determinations and how is a bit trickier.

At the same time, some authorities want to give Facebook even more reason to censor content. Yesterday the European Commission recommended that Facebook, Twitter, and similar sites be required to take down terrorism-related content within an hour of it being flagged by any European Union law enforcement. The commission has also been urging sites to be more proactive in removing "hate speech" and pornographic content. Yesterday's recommendation warned that if tech companies couldn't comply "voluntarily," legislation would be passed to force them.

And here in the U.S., the House of Representatives just passed legislation that would allow websites to be sued or prosecuted if sex workers post on them.

As authorities keep making ridiculous demands of user-generated content sites, expect to see a lot more situations like the removal of the Venus of Willendorf. Sites simply won't have enough incentive to take chances.

Photo Credit: Caro / Andreas Riedmiller/Newscom

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  • Hugh Akston||

    In Facebook's defense, Crusty Juggler does have the weirdest boner right now.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Steven Pinker (or is it Jared Diamond? They look alike) claims that these "Venuses" were in fact stone-age porn. Those boys worked hard for their hard-ons. You kids today with your damn on-line porn probably couldn't handle a chisel to save your lives!

  • Chip Woodier||

    Diamond is the one with the weird beard.

  • BYODB||

    More likely it's an item intended for women to promote fertility, but it could just as easily be a horndog stone-age male that couldn't convince any ladies in the tribe to give them a chance. Who knows? Given the Modern marines tendency to draw dicks on everything, I wouldn't underestimate the immaturity of stone-age youth.

  • VinniUSMC||

    Given the Modern marines tendency to draw dicks on everything

    Odd capitalization aside, it's true, dicks on everything.

  • SQRLSY One||

    If it moves, salute it!

    If it doesn't move, and you can pick it up, then pick it up and throw it away! (Prevent FOD, Foreign Object Damage, to jet aircraft turbine intakes especially).

    If it doesn't move, and you can't pick it up, then paint it!

    If it moves ***OR*** does NOT move, then draw a dick on it!

    (See, I learned, when I served!)

  • Liberty Lover||

    Well one thing it certainly proves, the ideal stone age woman's body was "curvy", not the Twiggy look of today!

  • TangoDelta||

    Fuck Mort, you got me. I LOL'd.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Don't be such a Whiskey Delta!

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Limestone boner was his self-proclaimed nickname in college

  • Tony||

    "As a private company, Facebook is of course entitled..."

    It's cute how this sentence always comes at around the same place in these articles, followed by a bitch session about why poor pwesident Twump is unfairly treated by said private company.

  • Brian||

    And the funniest part is: you're the first voice here invoking the Trump.

    Self-reflect much?

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    What a weird & misguided interpretation

  • Hugh Akston||

    That will make a nice epitaph for Tony.

  • Tony||

    Think I'll go with "Fake News."

  • Brian||

    What does the standard Democrat explanation for 2016 have to do with this?

  • CatoTheChipper||

    The Venus of Willendorf object is a product of the paleolithic patriarchy.

    It clearly oppresses women by objectifying them in a stereotypical role as mothers. Either that, or it is fat-shaming them.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    Also, the hairstyle is clearly cultural appropriation of the African American cornrow hairstyle.

  • Fancylad||

    Don't you mean "Russian Bots Did This!"?

  • FlameCCT||

    Fitting as that appears to be where you get all your talking points!

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    What's old is new again. Nouveau Victorian prudishness? I recall seeing this object in history books back when I was a teenager and at no time did it strike me as erotic or anything but an important artifact. But now we have famous works of art being censored because some douche bag may find them "offensive."

  • CatoTheChipper||

    Junior Anti-Sex League strikes again.

  • FlameCCT||

    I find it amusing how the Progressives are the ones censoring then projecting (blaming) their actions onto opposition!

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    I guess Cardinal Voiello finally left the Vatican and got a job at Facebook.

    (nailed it!)

  • Thrackmoor||

    Nice.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    High-five, brother!

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Giacometti it is not.

    It looks racist!

  • Longtobefree||

    "As a private company, Facebook is of course entitled to remove whatever imagery it pleases"

    Excuse me, what about the contract rights of the subscribers?
    FB has a policy that explicitly permits photographs of statuary which depicts nude human figures. Yet it violated that contract, to the detriment of a subscriber. Seems to me more than an apology is due for the world wide embarrassment and defamation of Laura Ghianda. Any lawyers out there who can give us an estimate of the monetary damages?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Well at the very least Ghianda is entitled to a refund of her Facebook subscription fee.

  • Longtobefree||

    Right. So facebook will retrieve all of her personal and aggrandized information that she exchanged for facebook access, and they sold for real money? Not paying real money is not the same as free; there was/is a cost to free web accounts, including this ad riddled one.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    It certainly is a shame that she was forced to use Facebook and now, because of her contract, she can't just delete her account.

  • BYODB||

    Even if you delete your facebook account, they keep your information. Just saying.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    Are you telling me that stuff put on the Internet will be on the Internet forever?

  • Longtobefree||

    Absolutely. The internet was invented by a government snooping loving democrat, after all.
    "What happens on the web, stays on the web"

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    According to libertarian sage Ken Shultz, she ought to be able to sue for a couple million at least.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    This is certainly more complicated than any of us want to admit, and we shouldn't rule out the courts expanding public accommodation laws to cover this kind of unequal treatment.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Needs three moar paragraphs.

  • croaker||

    As a private company, Fecesbook should lose it's safe harbor under the Communications Decency Act.

  • Finrod||

    They deserve to lose it, but not for this; for shadowbanning and outright banning people because they dared to be conservative or libertarian.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Funny how that works. I despise government period, and the idea that government has to pass a law allowing free speech is abhorrent. But then companies like Facebook and Google, who want that protection, turn around and spit in the face of free speech by banning things for their own reasons. I admit they should have that right, that government has no business threatening anybody for free speech. But it's hard to not snicker when their precious section 230 is under attack and they suddenly get all holy.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    It's interesting how quickly we're discovering just how similar "new media" is to "old media".

  • Longtobefree||

    There was a song back in dark ages about that - - - - - -
    We won't get fooled again.

  • FlameCCT||

    In the words of that great philosopher, Forrest Gump:
    Progressive is as Progressive does!

    After all, they are just following in the footsteps of US Progressives Bernays and Lippmann; who developed the current methods of propaganda in support of Progressive Democrat President Wilson segregating the federal government. The same methods admired and used by other Marxism derivatives like Communists Lenin and Stalin of Russia (USSR), National Socialist Goebbels of Germany, Communist Mao of China, even Progressive Alinsky in his Rules for Radicals.

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    Not Hotdog.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    That's the thing from The 13th Warrior. I can see how Facebook is worried about an attack by the Wendol.

  • croaker||

    In other news, Fecesbook flagged a Babylon Bee article about CNN buying industrial washing machines to spin news.

    Thanks a lot, Zuckerberg. May your low-bid security guards tie you to your bed and infect you with a zombie virus.

  • Finrod||

    And Snopes "debunked" it, too. Must Protect The Narrative.

  • ElDuderino||

    Are we not allowed to evaluate information on our own anymore? Since when do we need Facebook to help us figure out what we are looking at?

  • The Last American Hero||

    No. You might start leaning things that poke holes in the narrative. And we can't have any of that now, can we?

  • FlameCCT||

    Seriously? The Progressive Plantation will never allow their Proletariat Serfs to figure anything out for themselves; their Elitist Masters and Uncle Tom Overseers will tell the serfs what to think using their Progressive Propagandists.

    Speaking of Progressive Propagandists (aka MSM, et.al.); they remind me of USSR's TASS and Pravda with individual talking heads/writers reminding me of Iraq's Baghdad Bob!

  • Earth Skeptic||

    I see the contradiction as more fundamental:

    1. The Proletriat Serfs do indeed need guidance and protection for "right thinking"

    2. Every vote is sacred, cuz how else can the citizenry impose its collective wisdom

  • Mongo||

    Good call FB -- NO FAT CHICKS

  • Ken Hagler||

    "...the inability of Facebook's algorithms and human moderators to distinguish obscenity from ancient artifacts..."

    What makes you thing there is such an inability? As far as I can tell the sort of people who care about "obscenity" don't care how old it is.

  • Matt Boehm||

    I'm at a loss as to how this could repeatedly be interpreted as pornographic, but in their defense, "The Origin of the World" is a bit more provocative.

    Drawing a hard line at "photographs of paintings" is an imperfect rule, as there are likely plenty of photorealistic offensive paintings that Facebook would wish to ban.

  • ||

    This story is inaccurate.

    FaceBook block this because it was fat shaming.

  • Hank Phillips||

    No problem here, since I avoid Facebook, leprosy and yellow fever. But the picture looks like a figurine in an Antonio Banderas movie. In he movie, Vikings and a Saracen blackamoor (Banderas) have a violent altercation with a horde that worships something very similar to the image in the photo. One line is (spoiler alert!) "There is only one god, Allah, and Mohammed is his only prophet." This in 13th Warrier supposedly off a Michael Crichton story... Memme Farcebook thought it would trigger a Crusade, or that Crichton was an evil denier.

  • roughman998||

    I hate myself for having a Facebook account. I hate the guy who owns it.
    But Facebook is so ubiquitous, that it cannot, almost, be avoided.
    Damn the internet!

  • Longtobefree||

    You must endeavor to persevere.

    Life is possible without any 'social' media accounts at all.

  • TGoodchild||

    The incessant infantilism and anti-intellectualism is so embarrassing; as if Facebook couldn't be any less-cool.

  • TangoDelta||

    So where do they stand on multi gender bathrooms with urinals, toilets, and - myriad troughs?

  • Longtobefree||

    They do not stand. Everyone must squat to pee.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    "As a private company, Facebook is of course entitled to remove whatever imagery it pleases."

    (Anthony) Weiner defense?

  • MobettaJenkum||

    Just tell them that it was made by Africans, because as you all know, all humans (except the Weinersteins, Banker-species, and Facebergs) used to be black... It was just that since the ice-age, the black paint came off of the statue. Then Facebook would happily display the image~ potentially as their homepage logo.

  • cravinbob||

    When asked to define in words "pornography" Mark Zuckerburg said, "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description "hard-core pornography", and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.".
    or was it a Supreme Court Justice that said that?

    (my spell check doesn't like the way I spelled "Zuckerburg" so I looked at what it thought was the word I was going for for.- it said "cheeseburger")

  • Eman||

    And we worry about how smart computers are getting? On the other hand, they could have been the highest resolution of porn possible when they were made, and the computer program can penetrate us so deeply (with its vision, jeez) it's unavoidably obvious. One of those.

  • movieplatinum21||

    More likely it's an item intended for women to promote fertility.

  • vek||

    This ain't nothin'. This is just bureaucratic incompetence at work.

    What's really terrifying is what Twitter and YouTube have been doing the last week or two. They (along with Facebook) have always targeted anyone right of Mao, but the last couple weeks they have literally done a huge purge. Some accounts say over 10,000 people have been booted off Twitter. Over 2,000 YouTube channels supposedly. A number of them are "Alt-Right" in that they aren't mainstream sell out conservatives like John McCain or whatever, but a good grip of them aren't even that bad! It is really terrifying. They're actually trying to completely shut out any speech that isn't approved by the commissars.

    If they really do that, and some alternative sites that respect free speech don't finally blow up enough to be "real" then I think it's only going to increase the risk of something really, really, really, bad happening. People don't like being shut up and shut out. For now there's always Gab.ai I guess! They're actually letting outright Nazis post freely on there, so I don't see them bringing the hammer down on lighter (but still not PC enough for the leftists) speakers anytime soon.

  • ATXChappy||

    I don't want to live on this planet anymore.

  • vek||

    I feel the same way some days :(

  • santamonica811||

    The main problem was not that there was initial censorship. The *huge* problem was that Facebook, after being contacted by the poster, did NOTHING in response. If Facebook had initially censored, then--when asked about that decision--immediately said, "Oops...we put the image in front of an actual human, and it's clearly art. Sorry about that." . . . then there would be no issue. The *only* reason this got resolved is due to media exposure and Facebook' facing public and media pressure.

    The facts of this case were SO obvious that it is disheartening that it did not get resolved immediate. Or, after **a museum* contacted FB. Now, it moved from negligence to obviously intentional behavior. As I said, disheartening.

  • MBmb||

    The situation is almost completely asymmetrical. If Facebook allows its users to post something forbidden, it is threatened with large fines and may even be banned from operating in a certain country. On the other hand, if Facebook errs by banning more stuff just to be on the safe side, then other than some outrage on the Internet, which its PR department can presumably handle, there are no consequences.
    Besides, by giving in to government demands, firstly the government will owe it a favor and secondly the precedent is set for all sorts of content management and censorship, which can then be applied toward Facebook's own purposes. It's probably not so bad to have a close relation with the government, sort of like a defense industry contractor or like an official TV channel.
    So I don't see any downside for Facebook from agreeing to this.

  • ||

    What happened to the "Send Nudes" policy?

  • filmbioskop88||

    good information

  • bioskop online 19||

    good information

  • cinemaindo||

    Nice ....

  • nonton bioskop 88||

    "As a private company, Facebook is of course entitled..."

    It's cute how this sentence always comes at around the same place in these articles, followed by a bitch session about why poor pwesident Twump is unfairly treated by said private company

  • bioskop top xxi||

    a very beautiful statue, thank you for sharing

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