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Mastectomy support groups constantly censored by Facebook despite not breaking rules

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The founder of a mastectomy support group on Facebook claims that the platform repeatedly censors its content despite their content not violating Facebook’s community standards. Facebook admitted that the content was removed in error but it continues to happen.

The founder of the group, Jay Walker, said that Facebook removed post-mastectomy photos she had posted. The censorship was frustrating considering Facebook’s community guidelines allow mastectomy photos.

“We regularly have images removed for containing ‘nudity or sexual activity,’ despite mastectomy images being included within the community standards,” Walker said, speaking to the Press Association.

Walker, from Manchester, England, has been running the Mastectomy Network pages on both Instagram and Facebook for four years, around the time she had a preventative mastectomy surgery because of genetic predisposition. One of the reasons she started the pages is to “normalize” the surgery. Another reason was that she could not join breast cancer support groups since hers was a preventive surgery.

Walker’s support group welcomes “anyone who’s had a mastectomy” whether or not it was because of breast cancer.

However, Facebook has been frustrating her efforts. The platform even removed her posts in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

The group wrote:

“As someone who has been personally affected by Breast Cancer, we are asking for your support and hoping you will lend your voice to our plea to Facebook & Instagram to stop taking down images of women’s mastectomy scars.

Every year during Breast Cancer Awareness month, members of our private Facebook support group take part in our public #becomevisible campaign, drawing on Audre Lord’s words “If we are to translate the silence surrounding breast cancer into language and action against this scourge, then the first step is that women with mastectomies must become visible to each other.”
We post real, anonymised, unfiltered photos of men’s and women’s post-mastectomy bodies to help inform and empower individuals, before and after breast cancer related surgery.
Images of post-mastectomy scars, breast reconstructions and nipple tattoos are in no way sexual, but Facebook and Instagram continue to remove these images on the basis of their explicit material rules, thereby removing the comfort breast cancer patients find from seeing these images and knowing they’re not alone.”

Walker said that Facebook “warned that if we continue to post images that are against community standards, the support group and page will be restricted or permanently deleted.”

The Mastectomy Network group was no longer available on search results.

“We have tested this with several Facebook profiles that have never previously searched for or visited Mastectomy Network, using the same generic search terms… and the group is no longer shown in the search results,” Walker said.

Facebook confirmed that post-mastectomy breast photos and breast photos in the medical or educational context do not violate community standards.

“Jay’s profile shouldn’t have been suspended, and we have restored the posts that were removed – this was a mistake, and we’re sorry for any upset this has caused,” a Facebook rep said.

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