Controversy: Jill White vs. Facebook

I don't usually publish posts on consecutive days, but I wanted to comment on this…

Recently, photographer Jill White from North Carolina posted a picture to Facebook of her daughter on the beach.

In the photo, Ms. White's two-year-old daughter is standing in front of a very young friend. The friend is pulling the bottom portion of the daughter's bathing suit and the young girl's buttocks are exposed.

Ms. White thought the photo was "cute." She stated that it reminded her of a famous 1953 Coppertone sunscreen advertisement featuring a dog pulling down the swimsuit of a young girl similarly exposing her bottom.

She posted the image to Coppertone's Facebook page, but someone complained and Facebook representatives investigated.

In an email, Facebook officials gave Ms. White two options: delete the photo or change her account status to private so that only people that she had approved could see her postings and photos.

She ignored the email and she was banned from the site for 24 hours.

After the ban, Ms. White modified the bare-bottom in the photo by putting an emoticon over it. She then reposted the image of her daughter on the beach.

In several news stories, Ms. White argues that the first image is not a violation of Facebook's terms of service, is not even indecent, and that she is "outraged" at the actions levied against her.

My take?
  1. Ms. White's posted picture showing her daughter's exposed butt is a clear violation of Facebook's Terms of Service (Yes, I did read it).

  2. Facebook's demands were reasonable: remove it immediately or set your account to private. If private, she could then moderate who was able to view the photo. 

  3. I am sure that this national notoriety will be beneficial for Ms. White's photography business (any publicity is good publicity), but the more she argues "outrage" the less informed she appears. 

What am I trying to say specifically with #3?

From a policing perspective, Ms. White's posted photo could be very appealing to those interested in pornography.

This seemingly innocent image of her 2-year old daughter's exposed bottom and the young friend could be very easily manipulated, even just a little, and promoted as child porn.

The altered image could then be exchanged worldwide for decades.

When users post photos of children (especially images involving compromising positions) to Facebook/Instagram/blogs or whatever social media, they have to understand that those pictures could be used for the unthinkable--pornography or cyberstalking to name two.

Realizing this and wanting no part of it, Facebook has a clearly defined policy about nudity.

And though Facebook's actions are to protect the organization legally, they are at the same time deterring predators that sadly stalk the Internet looking for children.

Facebook made the right call here, and Ms. White would be wise to end the debate.

Note: You can view the images described in the this controversy, by clicking this news article. 


Mary Kirkland said...

I heard about this tonight on the news and I agree with you and FB, she violated the terms and the picture should have been removed.

Lisa said...

I agree with you SlamDunk

Lisa said...

when I looked at the photo, the picture was really, really cute and beautiful, I can just imagine the proud Mom posting it at Coppertone's, and didn't imagine it would lead to this

Bijoux said...

I agree with you. And seeing the Coppertone ad, was it always a cartoon? I don't remember.

Pat Hatt said...

Nothing wrong with the photo to keep to ones self in their own collection, heck we all have had them taken when a kid. But to put it up on the internet, yeah that is just asking for trouble. Facebook was right for a change, wonders never cease haha she needs to drop it indeed

ladyfi said...

I'm sorry - but seriously? It's okay for Facebook to have really racist pages and people posing with guns and yet they - and others - still find an innocent childhood picture offensive?

Why is violence and hatred okay on FB but not cute kids? (Rant finished.)

lisa said...

First, how did you get 7 posts on me that I've not read?? I've spent a lot of time catching up this morning since evidently I've been MIA in this area.

Second, while I completely understand the reasoning behind this Facebook issue, I think it's sad we live in that type of world….but mainly….who in their right mind wouldn't set their personal Facebook page to Private? Which goes back to my first observation of there being a lot of sick people in this world.

Stephanie Faris said...

I think it's sad that we live in a society where a picture of a girl's bare bottom is such an issue...but the truth is, we do. There are a lot of deviants out there... I'd say in the 50s, it was no big deal because people saw those pictures innocently. Sadly, we now know what's out there and it forces us to restrict what we post about young people. I'm even cautious about posting pictures of other people's kids on my page (at author events and such) because I know some parents don't like pics of their kids out there because of those nutballs.

The bottom line is, it's in the TOS. If it's in the TOS that you agree to when you sign up for the site, they can do whatever they want. Nobody's making her use the site so if she doesn't agree, she can go elsewhere. I have a feeling she's just looking for publicity, though.

messymimi said...

The Coppertone picture is cute, but it dates from a time when that's the most anyone would have thought of it. Now, we have to be more careful. It's why i don't want my picture out there much at all, and have tried to convince my kids to be the same way.

She needs to set the account to private or edit the picture before posting.

Brian Miller said...

i have a good friend in the child porn unit of the PD up yeah, i hear you on that last bit...and whatever it takes for her to get attention eh?

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the comments all.

@Bijoux: I am not sure--the articles only focused on the cartoon-like ad.

@LadyFi: You make a valid point and one that Ms. White argued as well. I have not seen FB's response to that criticism, but I would hope that it would be: "report offensive material so that we can investigate."

@Lisa: Ha, my mouth has been running lots lately which means my fingers have been typing. Some of the college students that I work with set their FB profile to private--it helps keep snooping family members and employers out of their activities.

@Stephanie: Thanks for bringing up the historical dimension to this debate. It certainly matters as society has changed so much over the decades.

@Brian: That was something that crossed my mind as well.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I hadn't heard of this and I agree. FB was being reasonable, especially given what could end up happening.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

Here's my thought on it. I don't really care about the FB policy or whatever. WHY would you post a picture of a child that could potentially fuel child pornography folks? Seems like if you posted the picture without thinking, and someone pointed it out to you, you'd immediately take it down to PROTECT YOUR CHILD. It concerns me that she doesn't care about that.

Mommy Lisa said...

Totally agree - same reason I hate that show Toddlers and Tiaras. It is totally aimed at child predators.

Chrys Fey said...

I think this photo would've been cute to keep for your children's photo album and to show family, but to post on a FB page where strangers can see it? Millions of people use FB, including pedophiles. It is sad that in this society a child's bottom can cause such an uproar, but that's how things are now-a-days. I have my personal FB page set as private because I only want the people I know and am friends with to see the things I post. No one else.

Carol Kilgore said...

This is the first I've heard of this. Does Coppertone have the old ad on its page? If so, then I don't see a problem with the one the photographer posted. Allow them both, or take them both down.

However, I totally understand about TOS, and she needs to comply or leave. And so does Coppertone if that old ad is there. I also see how it could be easily manipulated and sold as porn. As sad as that is.

A Cuban In London said...

Rule number 1 on Facebook or social media: leave your children out of it. Simple as. End of. Good post.

Greetings from London.

BobKat said...

Ladyfi, Stephanie... their opinions matter. I have my opinion and I have to say slam you hit this one dead on! "Dead On", a saying, sinister by nature, but we love it.

I started reading this agreeing with the photographer. But you made an excellent case, and I saw things from your POV.

It is sad our society is this way, but I have to wonder if it's always been this way? And we are only now becoming aware of it?

terri said...

People have become so comfortable with being online that I think they don't always consider the dangers of posting such things. My initial reaction to seeing the picture was that it was cute. Then after reading your arguments, I had to agree with you. The children have no say over what photos of them are shared online. The mother most likely wanted to boast her "cute" photo but probably wasn't thinking about all the creepy types it would attract. I think you're right.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Ya know, if she'd snapped the photo and just stuck it in a photo album, it would just be "cute." But publishing a partially nude child online for all the world - including the pedophiles - to see? No. Absolutely inappropriate. But I always thought the Coppertone ad was creepy.