Aboriginal Australian women in traditional dress, painted with ochre across their bare chests in traditional ceremony has been branded offensive by social media site Facebook.
By
Andrea Booth

16 Apr 2015 - 10:00 AM  UPDATED 24 Jun 2015 - 5:38 PM

In an action described as "utterly ridiculous", Facebook this week pulled the television show trailer for the ABC’s 8MMM program citing potential "offensive nudity".

The video, which featured Aboriginal women painted with ochre across their bare chests in traditional ceremony, may have breached the social media platform's nudity guidelines.

NITV has sought comment from Facebook and on Wednesday evening was informed that it is looking into the matter.

That is welcome news indeed. Perhaps Facebook is learning some cultural and common sense. But rather than just looking into it, NITV News' Executive Producer Malarndirri McCarthy encourages the social media platform to go even further.

"I invite Facebook to come and learn about the First Nations of Australia," she said. "Talk to the well-respected producers of the 8MMM program, and come to NITV to see for yourself the strength, beauty and diversity in Indigenous culture."

Facebook says its nudity policy, which prohibits users from publishing nipples of breasts, genitals and buttocks, enables its teams around the world to apply uniform assessments to limit the risk of offending particular groups. As such, its policy may be considered, "More blunt than we would like", as it states in its Community Standards explainer.

I suppose that is practical, given Facebook's needs for a single policy to cover the huge arrange of standards of all the cultures and subcultures in our rich and varied world.

But if its policy must be so bluntly applied in order to minimise the risk of causing offense, why don’t the Facebook censorship police pick up images of Kim Kardashian's breasts sopping with oil or her bare-butted body holding the phallic shape of a champagne bottle erupting liquid?

Maybe Facebook should consider an international document that enshrines a global standard that forbids the restriction of Indigenous peoples from practicing their cultures. Article 11 of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, says "Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalise their cultural traditions and customs."

"This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature."

Kudos to Facebook for revisiting its nudity policy in order to allow photos of women breastfeeding or showing their breasts with post-mastectomy scarring. It also allows artistic depictions of nudity. But why did it stop short of culture?

In practising the traditional ceremony that is depicted in ABC TV's 8MMM program, these Aboriginal women are helping to continue their culture for the next generation amid a context of oppression upon their own land.

But maybe Facebook's double standard is a symptom of something more broad.

Maybe it's not just Facebook and it's not just the digital space, but fundamentally, we live in a society that endorses the flaunting of superficiality, narcissism and sexualisation, yet fails to embrace the lesser-heard, oldest cultures – abundant with wisdom and the sacred.