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Facebook Users Protest Breastfeeding Policy

Legislation may have cleared the way for women to breastfeed in public in the vast majority of U.S. states, but on the wild wild west of the Internet, Facebook remains forbidden territory for pictures of the natural deed. The company’s long-standing policy of removing breastfeeding photos has been drawing steady opposition, though, resulting in real-life and virtual protests last week from women who demand the right to bare all with baby on the Web.

The group “Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding is Not Obscene,” formed last year after Facebook removed pictures of mother Kelli Roman nursing her daughter. Though it has gained steam through the Web, now boasting over 75,000 members, the most vocal of its advocates took their angst to Facebook’s physical location on Saturday with a real-life protest in front of the company’s main headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. Silicon Valley’s Mercury News reported a relatively small turnout, with the number of photographers rivaling the number of protestors, and Facebook execs apparently absent.

The protestors were joined online, though, by a larger number of mothers who chose to change their profile pictures to breast-feeding photos as a sign of virtual protest.

In Facebook’s defense, spokesman Barry Schnitt explained to the Washington Post that administrators only remove photos flagged by other users by obscene, and that it maintains the policy to keep the site safe for its audience of users aged 13 and up.

According to Schnitt, many breastfeeding photos are actually perfectly acceptable. “We take no action on the vast majority of breastfeeding photos because they follow the site’s Terms of Use,” Schnitt wrote. “Photos containing a fully exposed breast (as defined by showing the nipple or areola) do violate those Terms and may be removed.”

Though the protest group’s numbers rocketed from 50,000 to 75,000 in the days surrounding the protest, Facebook has so far shown no sign of actually changing its policies in response.