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Doula's Facebook and Instagram deactivated for birth photos deemed "pornographic"

Doula's Facebook and Instagram deactivated for birth photos deemed "pornographic"


Melissa Willets

posted in Pregnancy

Last week, I shared the story of a leading birth photographer, Monet Moutrie, who was banned by Facebook months after she posted a video tribute to mothers. Many commenters shared her outrage that a collection of images of moms birthing their babies would constitute a violation of the social media site’s community standards. Especially since the footage contained no private parts of mothers or newborns.

In the wake of this unsettling ban comes the story of another birth worker’s Facebook and Instagram accounts getting deactivated after the doula posted photos of moms postpartum. Neither image showed private parts. And yet, they were deemed pornographic.

Now, Australia-based Julie Bell, owner of Blissful Herbs, is speaking out against what she sees as a double standard, and even discrimination against birth images on social media. She joins a growing movement online of birth workers who are demanding that their work not be censored. It’s even got its own hashtag: #stopcensoringbirth.

Bell’s frustration began when she posted this beautiful image to her Instagram and Facebook accounts.

This photo got doula's Facebook account deactivated

Bell explained to BabyCenter, “The mother is one of my Blissful Herbs customers. She shared her birth photos with me via Facebook messenger, exulting in her beautiful, peaceful birth at home. With her previous birth, the third stage was rushed and aggressive, causing a serious PPH (bleed). On a Facebook group, she read my advice for keeping the third stage safe and gentle to prevent hemorrhage. She said she followed this advice ‘to a T’ and used my No Bleed herbal tea — and everything was perfect, bleeding was minimal. She was very happy.”

But Facebook was not. Just 20 seconds after Bell posted the photo, the site slapped her with a 7-day ban! “How can [this photo] possibly be deemed pornographic and ‘a violation of community standards?'” Bell wondered in the wake of the deactivation.

But that wasn’t even the end of her saga. A week after the activist’s Facebook account was temporarily deactivated, she shared a now-viral image of a mother’s unassisted home birth on Instagram.

unassisted home birth photo gets doula's social media account deactivated

As Bell explained to BabyCenter, “With both [mom] Marissa’s and her baby’s private areas obscured, [the photo] couldn’t possibly violate the modesty standards.” But soon, her Instagram account, which has over 11,000 followers and, what Bell describes as, “over 1,000 beautiful images of women, families, birth, and breastfeeding,” was permanently deactivated!

“Meanwhile, when women use social media, we have to be confronted with [real pornographic] images,” Bell seethes. “So how does a degrading photo get past these super-sensitive ‘bots’ and algorithms, while a photo of a mother holding her baby, with no adult nudity at all, results in bans and the loss of whole accounts, and loss of our digital citizenship?”

“That’s why we’re talking about a double standard and discrimination,” Bell told BabyCenter, adding, “This has happened to scores of other birth photographers, doulas, midwives and activists.”

Bell’s account being suspended for the unassisted birth photo is especially puzzling given how many times the image was shared and liked online by thousands of other social media users.

The good news for her is that, as she told us, friends with “larger, more influential accounts who happened to have the ear of someone at Instagram in Public Policy intervened for me.” Her account has since been reinstated. But for countless other birth workers, the censorship of their work continues.

Birth images being censored makes me so sad, because, and I know I’m not alone in believing this: seeing birth images helps normalize all different kinds of birthing practices. Images like the ones Bell shared also assist in shedding fear about birthing a baby, let women know what to expect, and enable them to feel empowered, instead of terrified.

Here’s hoping Facebook and Instagram get the message soon that we the people don’t want birth censored.

What is your take on the #stopcensoringbirth movement?

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