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Facebook: We were wrong to remove emotional father-son photo

facebook fatherson image ban father son
Heather Whitten/Facebook
Facebook found itself in a bit of a sticky situation over its decision to remove this image from the social network not once, but twice, despite the image not specifically breaking any of the site’s community standards. The image in question shows a father in the shower comforting his young son, who was ill with salmonella poisoning. It was captured by photographer, and the child’s mother, Heather Whitten, and shared with her friends and family on Facebook.

Whitten took to Facebook to complain, posting the image for a third time along with a long description of the events depicted in the image and her frustration with the it being removed, despite not breaking any rules. The image, again, received a ton of support and, as of this writing, sits at more than 147,000 likes, 33,000 shares, and 21,000 comments.

“My family may be different than yours. But, that doesn’t make your way right or my way wrong.” Witten explained in the post, “You may never take images of your family like I do… you may never share images of your family like I do. But, that doesn’t give you the right to silence my voice. To take away my right to share our experiences in an uncensored way.”

The image has received an outpouring of support from the greater Facebook community, and hundreds of thousands of likes and comments, right from the very beginning. Yet, a vocal minority has questioned the image and the appropriateness of displaying such content in public. They have a right to that opinion, but the mass reporting of the image caused it to be removed twice by Facebook’s enforcement team, without any notice or reason. The only conclusion is that it had broken one of the social networks community standards, but as we noted already, it hadn’t.

It is just the latest example of Facebook’s enforcement team failing to take the context of an image into account after receiving reports about the content shown within it. As we mentioned above, none of Facebook’s very clearly spelled-out community standards were violated by the image. But Facebook, to its credit, is admitting its mistake, and, in the company’s defense, the photo could easily be misconstrued when viewed without context. “This photo was mistakenly removed by our team and does not violate our Community Standards. We are sorry for this mistake and have restored the photo to the page,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to Digital Trends.

Facebook, in error, removed this image from the social network twice due to mass reporting. Heather Whitten

These sort of things are bound to happen when a large group of people congregates in the same place. Points of view will differ and opinions will contend with each other. We don’t envy Facebook’s enforcement team, who have to go through the content that is reported on a daily basis and make decisions one way or another. It appears that in this instance, although the image was removed (twice), the outcome has been favorable with the image being restored.

But in many situations, the result is less favorable. All we can hope for is that Facebook improves its training and education so that in the future, enforcement staff can make the correct call.

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