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Visit Flanders playfully overturns Facebook's ban on artistic nudity


On 26th September 2018, Facebook and the Flemish tourist board VISITFLANDERS met at Rubens House museum in Antwerp, Belgium. The meeting was in response to an open letter from VISITFLANDERS denouncing Facebook's unfair advertising policy towards the artistic nudity portrayed in the work of many iconic Flemish Masters.


Facebook has now changed its policy on artistic nudity from 'inappropriate' to 'approved' content

As a result of the meeting between VISITFLANDERS’ CEO, Peter De Wilde, and Facebook’s Head of Public Policy for Nordics and Benelux, Martin Ruby, Facebook announced that it will, with immediate effect, change its underlying algorithms in respect of automatically unblocking original content that contains artistic nudity for the purposes of cultural heritage.

Previously, an advertisement bearing images reproduced from old paintings and sculptures with nudity, for example, Rubens' version of Adam and Eve, would be blocked by Facebook due to its blanket ban on all forms of nudity. Because of the change in policy, VISITFLANDERS will now be able to include a broader remit of images for its Flemish Masters campaign online. Furthermore, Facebook stated that it will simplify its appeal procedure for the blocking of sponsored posts, when artistic nudity has been accidentally blocked.

Last year, VISITFLANDERS began a campaign to celebrate its rich art heritage of iconic painters of the past. For hundreds of years, Flemish master painter Peter Paul Rubens has been famous for the artistic portrayal of the naked human form. During the campaign they found that most of their advertisements to promote Rubens’ art in Flemish museums became censored by Facebook.

In response to the exclusion, VISITFLANDERS wrote a tongue-in-cheek open letter to Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, to protest which was jointly signed by a group of national and international museums. The letter requested a revision of Facebook’s advertising policy to block artistic nudity. To humorously illustrate the point, VISITFLANDERS published a video featuring ‘social media police agents’ in July 2018. The video contained footage of museum-goers with a Facebook account, being prevented from viewing nude paintings. After an overwhelming international response to the video, Facebook accepted the invitation to discuss the policy review.

Peter De Wilde, CEO of VISITFLANDERS said “The result of this meeting is a breakthrough for the artistic scene worldwide. Facebook was fast to respond to our playful protest. A meeting was arranged with Facebook to find a solution, and that is what we have achieved. This is an important milestone for cultural institutions and art lovers around the world. Social media and art have a lot in common. Art brings people together and so does social media, we also believe our Flemish Masters do too. With the new advertising policy, we can finally give the Flemish Masters the attention online they deserve. Our uncensored content will now serve as the perfect snapshot to tempt visitors to come and admire the Flemish Masters in the full glory of their home, in Flanders.”

Over the course of just two months, with the help of a letter and video, VISITFLANDERS is delighted to have influenced the decision to make Facebook shift their policy on artistic nudity from 'inappropriate' to 'approved' content, for the greater good of cultural promotion for all.

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