I miss the good old, almost-anything-goes days of Facebook. When it was just for college students. And not everyone -- including conservative activists -- stuck their nose in what people posted on the site. But those days -- sigh -- are long gone, because now Facebook walks on eggshells, fearing obscenity suits. The latest: The social media site made the University of North Florida's newspaper, The Spinnaker, take down their profile pic, which, per usual, was the cover of their latest edition. But unlike past covers, this one depicts a couple engaging in oral sex.
That's because the cover story is about the news that there may be a link between throat cancer and performing oral sex on someone infected with the human papillomavirus, or HPV.
Spinnaker’s Editor-in-Chief Josh Gore defended the image, which was taken of UNF students, to NBC. He explained:
It complimented the story, it got people to read the story and this was not pornography.
I couldn't agree more. The image is very obviously an artistic shot, taken to suggest oral sex. Nothing about it screams questionable to me. Beyond that, it's the cover of the school newspaper. The Spinnaker staff explained that they always post their latest cover as their profile picture on Facebook; this time was no different, except that the cover shot this time around was somewhat more provocative than usual.
The thing is, no one complained about it. Facebook seems to have only pulled it out of fear. According to AllFacebook.com, the site has gotten a lot of legal advice about how to avoid obscenity claims. Suits usually come from conservative types, they say, so it's best if they err toward "the standards of the most conservative jurisdictions."
That may be the way to play it safe, but I say that strategy is a bunch of crap! In many ways, Facebook is one of the main -- if not only -- forums for young people to express themselves and share ideas. That's the idealogy the site was built on, and to stand in the way of that -- especially in this case, where students were valiantly disseminating info about a possible health threat -- is just going against what I thought Facebook stood for.
But, clearly, Zuck & Co. are a bunch of cowards now. (Uh, by the way, it's not like they couldn't AFFORD a lawsuit if they got slapped with one, and in this UNF case, I doubt that the newspaper cover would be found obscene in court.)
Rumor has it, though, sometimes Facebook pulls images that they say violate their Terms, only to restore them. (When? After they deliberate and come to the conclusion that they're being rash and delusional?) Too bad for Facebook, though. If they were to restore the cover, The Spinnaker probably wouldn't have much use for it. They're already on to the next issue. So even if Facebook were to try to do the right thing here, it would be too little too late.
Do you think Facebook was right to pull The Spinnaker cover?
Image via UNF Spinnaker