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Getting a mastectomy is a life- and body-changing event for breast cancer survivors. In today's always-online world, it's natural that survivors who have endured a mastectomy would like to share their battle scars with friends and family on social media.
Facebook is very clear that they do, in fact, allow post-mastectomy photos. Their Help Center states, "We agree that undergoing a mastectomy is a life-changing experience and that sharing photos can help raise awareness about breast cancer and support the men and women facing a diagnosis, undergoing treatment or living with the scars of cancer. The vast majority of these kinds of photos are compliant with our policies."
But in practice, many breast cancer survivors have experienced the shame and outrage of having posted a post-mastectomy photo only to have it flagged as inappropriate content.
Why does this happen?
Facebook allows users to flag images for offensive content, and the website's algorithm usually removes the image without considering context. Cancer survivors have to go through the hassle of disputing the automatic removal of their image, despite the fact that Facebook's Terms of Service is very clear that post-mastectomy images are allowed on the site.
Facebook needs to stop its blanket approach to banning images. They need to have real people decide what images should and should not be banned. Breast cancer survivors should not have to fight to post what Facebook has already said is allowed on their website!
Dear Mark Zuckerberg,
It has come to my attention that many breast cancer survivors are feeling persecuted and silenced after they attempt to share post-mastectomy pictures on your website. Facebook's policy on this is clear. The Help Center states, "We agree that undergoing a mastectomy is a life-changing experience and that sharing photos can help raise awareness about breast cancer and support the men and women facing a diagnosis, undergoing treatment or living with the scars of cancer. The vast majority of these kinds of photos are compliant with our policies."
Breast cancer survivors, however, are often not having experiences that align with this stated policy. Too many survivors have shared post-mastectomy photos only to have the images be flagged and removed by Facebook's algorithm. To get their images back online, survivors have to go through a tedious customer support system. This is not something they should have to do. Furthermore, no survivor should have to go through the pain and anguish of having a banned image imply that their body is somehow inadequate or unacceptable. Cancer is hard enough. Post-mastectomy pictures are a way for survivors to bring awareness to the disease, and also bring to light the strength and indomitable spirit needed to endure it.
Mr. Zuckerberg, please spearhead a revision of Facebook's system for banning images. Flagged images should have a human making judgement calls before they are removed from the site. Doing so would save many breast cancer survivors countless hours of stress and shame that Facebook agrees they should not have experienced in the first place.
Thank you for your help,