Facebook Locked Us Out for Art Boobs in ‘Venus Webcam’

April 15, 2013 | Marina Galperina

Last week, I uploaded ANIMAL’s photos from the amazing F.A.T. Gold 5-Year Retrospective opening at Eyebeam Art+Technology Center to our Facebook account and got us locked out. I’m so sorry that I didn’t think twice about uploading installation shots of Addie Wagenknecht and Pablo Garcia‘s Venus Webcam  — a screen capture of the artists directing amateur xxx webcam performers to pose as hommages to Egon Schiele, Modigliani, and Botticelli.

Facebook’s “Community Standards” don’t distinguish between boobs and art boobs.

I couldn’t log into my personal Facebook account for for 24-hours, and when I could, I was Faceblocked from commenting or liking for 24-more hours, which is tolerable for you normies, but #netpeople know. For minute there, I lost myself.

This is not the first time Zuckyberg’s outsourced morality police took down art. It just took us by surprise to be part of Facebook’s systemized purge.

It was… how do you say… LAME.

We asked the artists behing Venus Webcam for reactions. As a lot of their work explores the themes of surveillance and personal freedom, they see something more sinister.

Pablo Garcia:

You correctly point out that Facebook’s censorship of Webcam Venus is ironic. At least, it is Facebook playing to type. Addie and I, in making the project, commented that this would be an interesting test for censors who assume their work in removing “objectionable” content as fairly black and white. Apparently Facebook has a policy of removing photographs of nudes but not paintings or sculptures. but what about paintings of people posing as paintings? Or photos of paintings?

The entire project came from a simple observation that a nude woman reclining on a sofa waiting to be paid for sexual displays is compositionally quite close to a classic painting of a reclining nude. The main difference is the context—or more accurately our perception of that context. If we remove the sexcam context (the chat scroll, the ads for penis enlargements, the commerce), these performers are just like fine art masterpieces because they are posing and aspiring to be more than just sex for hire.

So the fact that Facebook can’t tell the difference between the altered context of a sex performer who is transformed into something beautiful is probably the best proof that Webcam Venus is a successful project. Facebook fell for the twist in the project and in doing so exposed itself as a blunt censorship algorithm masquerading as a caring parental figure.

Addie Wagenknecht:

Facebook is a sort of digital heroin. It’s voluntary; your friends do it, your mom starts, the guy you’re dating… then you join — slowly seeping into your day to day so that the 99% don’t notice: Facebook has always altered peoples profiles. Then they moved onto the Centre Pompidou art collection, blocking them for nudes, to some extent I suppose. This is the very question around Webcam Venus. What is art? Who has the right to define it?

Around the time Anonymous popped onto the mass media radar, I noticed everything I posted in regards to planned DDoS attacks was magically gone one morning from my wall. And now they’re blocking our access for things like a partially exposed nipple. Why?

Facebook is spying on us, mining and exploiting our information and caching our biometric data in servers full of facial recognition systems to sell to corporations and anyone else they deem profit worthy. When we are blocked what happens? They start to lose money. They have developed a platform in which their only goal is ultimately to train billions of people into a culture that doesn’t question where our information goes or who it’s sold to or why. So when we all start posting art which violates their terms and conditions, they can no longer profit from us. Corporations and governments used to have to hire huge research teams to assemble our private profiles; now we do it for them. What’s even a bit scarier is while we do this they remove or block anything they don’t like.

This whole process has started a new experimental art project for me called 365 of Being Blocked just to see if its possible to be blocked for art indefinitely. I hope to get other artist and bloggers in on the experiment.