An innocent photo of a mother playing in the water with her topless son was flagged by Facebook for violating community standards, causing the mother’s Facebook account to be suspended. Kelly Stone and her 8-year-old son, Mayne, were swimming in the San Marcos River in Texas when a family friend snapped a photo of them. In the picture, Mayne and his mom are all smiles. Mayne, like many boys his age, is wearing only a pair of swim trunks and perched on top of his mom’s shoulders.
Like a lot of proud parents, Stone made the image of her and her child her Facebook profile picture, but was shocked two days later to learn her Facebook account was suspended. She received what appeared to be an automated message claiming she had posted an image containing nudity and sexual content, and the image had been removed. She was surprised to see the picture they were referring to was the one of her and her son in the river.
As a result of her suspension, Stone was locked out of her Facebook account for a week, able to see things in her feed but not comment or post on anything. While not being able to “like” your friend’s daughter’s back-to-school pictures or share the latest viral cat video may seem like no big deal, today more and more people are mixing their work lives into their social networks, and Stone is no exception. She is a comedian who books performances through Facebook and arranges teaching panels through her Facebook page. An accidental account suspension over a perfectly innocent photo like this one could have a serious impact on people’s careers.
Mayne does wear his hair on the longer side, so perhaps that played a part in why the photo was flagged, but that doesn’t excuse what was still a wrongful suspension of the account in the first place. Plenty of boys choose to wear their hair in longer styles these days. And while there are sadly pockets of deranged people on the internet, can we all agree that in the context of a photo like this one, a topless child of either gender isn’t sexual? Children play in the water all summer long, and for some families, social channels like Facebook are the best and sometimes the only way to keep extended family aware of what’s going on in their kids' lives. You shouldn’t have to worry about being locked out of your account for a week if you post a sweet snap of your baby’s chest in a swimming pool. If a parent feels comfortable posting the image online, that should be at their discretion to do so.
Furthermore, even if Facebook admits it was an error (as it did to Stone) and even if the account suspension was only temporary, there’s a sense that society is passing judgment on parents who chose to post these pictures of their children online when you're flagged like this. Think of how embarrassing it would be to explain to your friends and family that your account had been suspended. Even if you eventually received a “whoops, our mistake!” email, you may still second-guess yourself in posting the image in the first place.
Once she was regranted access to her account, Stone posted the photo again, this time as a meme that explains Mayne is a boy in hopes that Facebook will not flag the image again. Facebook has apologized and acknowledged that the account was suspended in error, so it’s likely that Stone’s photo will remain online. Hopefully Facebook can alter their screening process so we can post images of our children being innocent kids without having to worry about getting flagged and suspended. But just in case, maybe save that cute bathtub pic and send it as an email attachment to Grandma instead of posting it online.
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