Oh, Facebook. Like banning breastfeeding photos wasn't bad enough, now they're under fire for deleting pictures that a mom posted of her dying baby boy.
Grayson was born on February 15 with anencephaly, a rare but fatal neural tube birth defect. His parents, who already knew about his condition, had arranged for a photographer to take pictures of him, knowing they had only a few precious hours before he passed away.
The photos are heartbreakingly beautiful to see: baby Grayson being held by family members, surrounded by love. Unbelievably, these are the same images Facebook deleted—before banning Grayson's mom Heather Walker from the site for 24 hours after she tried putting them up again.
Walker had posted the images to Facebook, some with Grayson wearing a hat, and others exposing the baby’s birth defect. Somehow, the images were flagged as offensive, and Facebook began taking down the photos. In protest, Walker attempted to repost them, which resulted in her being temporarily shut out.
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It was only after hundreds of people shared their support for Walker on the Benefit for Grayson James Walker page that Facebook admitted their mistake. In a statement, they said:
Upon investigation, we concluded the photo does not violate our guidelines and was removed in error. Facebook is a place where almost a billion people share more than 300 million photos a day. (...) occasionally, we make a mistake and remove a piece of content we shouldn’t have. We extend our deepest condolences to the family and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience.
I don't even know where to get started with this. I mean, I understand that human error occurs, and that Facebook has an enormous job in manually reviewing those 'flagged as offensive' reports, but how could anyone have decided that a photo of a dying baby fell under their rules of not allowing "graphic violence, threats, self-harm, bullying and harassment, hate speech or nudity and pornography"?
Not only that, but whoever flagged it in the first place should be downright ashamed of themselves.
Walker has since accepted Facebook's apology, saying:
After days of frustration over the removal of Grayson's photo, I am now at peace. I am grateful for their sincere apology and feel that this mistake will not happen to anyone else.
I'm glad Facebook finally stepped up and admitted they made a bad decision, but I'm not at all sure it won't happen again. The system seems inherently unsustainable—anyone can flag any image for any reason, and then a team at Facebook has the Herculean task of deciding whether or not the picture really shouldn't be allowed? I'm not saying I have a better solution, but I can't imagine that this is the last we'll hear of a photo getting deleted for no good reason.
For most, that may be no big deal. But for Grayson Walker's family, I'm sure having their son's image banned was just one more heartbreak they didn't need to deal with.
What do you think of Facebook's photo policy? Do you think it should be improved somehow?
Image via YouTube