An international movement landed in NYC this morning as a small group of women carried their young children inside the building that houses Facebook's NYC office, demanding that the social networking giant leave their breastfeeding photos alone.
The "nurse-in" was planned after Vancouver mom Emma Kwasnica launched an online campaign, calling on Facebook to stop deleting images of mothers nursing their children. Kwasnica said Facebook removed her photos numerous times, despite the company's claim that it does not delete images unless they show an exposed breast that is not being used for feeding.
The group of moms who attended the NYC "nurse-in" insist that even though the photos are acceptable by Facebook's
Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, they are continually removed. They met in the lobby of 335 Madison Avenue, the building where Facebook
operates on two floors. The small contingent was first asked to leave but later returned to the lobby where security allowed them to stay. The moms nursed their children and chanted lines like, "Facebook, Facebook, don't be mean -- breastfeeding is not obscene."
"People view breasts as this sexual thing," said Wendy Ledesma, an Astoria mom who has a 17-month-old son. "We need to get over that as a society and realize that breastfeeding is normal, natural, beautiful and important."
No one from Facebook came downstairs to address the moms, but a spokesperson blamed the deleted photos on human error. Each photo that gets flagged as offensive is reviewed by an employee who then decides whether the photo will be deleted and the user's account frozen.
"Facebook receives hundreds of thousands of reports every week, and as you might expect, occasionally we make a mistake and remove a piece of content we shouldn't," a Facebook spokesperson told Metro. "When this happens, we work quickly to address it by apologizing to the people affected and making any necessary changes to our processes to ensure the same type of mistakes do not continue to be made. We encourage people to re-upload the photos they believe were removed in error."
The movement has garnered the support of thousands of people across the globe. Emma Kwasnica organized the worldwide protests after she said many of her own photos were deleted and that Facebook continues to delete the photos of other breastfeeding moms.
"We have the legal right to breastfeed anywhere," Kwasnica said over the phone from San Francisco. "If someone tells us to cover up, which is what Facebook is doing, that’s harassment. You should never discriminate against women who are trying to do the best for their kids."
Kwasnica said she believes Facebook employees are "running rogue" and deleting images based on their own personal sensitivity rather than the established photo guidelines. The images have also sparked debate within the court of public opinion over whether or not it's appropriate to share breastfeeding photos on social networks. Critics of the movement claim breastfeeding should be kept private. For others, it depends on how much of the breast or nipple is visible in the photos.
"Showing the aureola, that's between the mother and the child," said Nathaniel Harris of The Bronx. "That part of the breast shouldn’t be shown. People of all ages could be looking at it."
"It's just the natural thing and if people don’t want to look at those photos, don’t look at them," said Sarah Milcetic, an Astoria mom who attended this morning's nurse-in. "People feel very nervous when they see someone breastfeeding because they haven’t been exposed to it enough. I think that if it was around more and not covered up, it would just be easier for it to be part of normal life."