Is It OK To Post Nude Artwork on Social Media?
Recently, an association of museums in Vienna, Austria made an OnlyFans account to post nude artworks after the social media accounts of the city's museums were suspended for sharing such content. In July 2021, the TikTok account of the Albertina Museum in Vienna was banned for posting pictures of Japanese artist Nobuyoshi Araki's work that showed covered breasts. In response to social platforms' treatment of nude artwork, the Vienna Tourism Board showed its disapproval towards the blacklisting of such a type of art on social media.
"Vienna and its art institutions are among the casualties of this new wave of prudishness – with nude statues and famous artworks blacklisted under social media guidelines, and repeat offenders even finding their accounts temporarily suspended," wrote the Vienna Tourism Board on its website.
"Major social media channels like Instagram and Facebook have nudity and 'lewd' content firmly in their sights," it also stated.
We looked at different social media platforms to see their policies on nude artworks. All of the platforms we investigated had exceptions to banning nude content. Here's what we found.
On Instagram, nudity isn't allowed. This means that photos, videos and digitally-created content depicting sexual intercourse, genitals, fully bare buttocks and female nipples aren't allowed. However, Facebook said that there are exceptions to this rule as nudity in pictures of paintings and sculptures can stay on the photo-sharing platform. This also applies to pictures related to
breastfeeding, childbirth, after-birth, health-related contexts and acts of protest.
Despite the existence of these policies, several erotica artists that share their work on Instagram experienced their posts being taken down, as per a report from the Washington Post.
On Facebook, users are allowed to post photos of paintings, sculptures and other artwork that shows nude figures. Like on Instagram, people can share nude photos in the context of protest, education or medical reasons. For example, they can do so to raise awareness about a cause or to depict instances of breastfeeding, gender confirmation surgery, childbirth, after-birth and other situations.
In 2017, Facebook banned a photo depicting Giambologna's Fountain of Neptune statue as it was considered explicitly sexual. The same thing happened in March 2018 with an advertisement that showed the famous painting entitled "Liberty Leading the People" by French artist Eugène Delacroix as it shows a bare-breasted woman. The platform then admitted that it made a mistake when it took down the aforementioned statue and painting.
Back in May 2017, the Guardian reported on Facebook's internal rulebook that stated that nudity in artwork like paintings, sculptures and drawings are allowed but digitally-created images of nudity or sexual activity are not.
As for TikTok, it prohibits nudity, pornography or sexually explicit content but can make exceptions for "educational, documentary, scientific, or artistic content, satirical content, content in fictional settings, counterspeech, and content in the public interest that is newsworthy or otherwise enables individual expression on topics of social importance". However, it's worth restating that a museum in Vienna got its TikTok account banned for posting nude artworks, so the enforcement of these exceptions may not be consistent.
For the most part, nudity is more accepted on Twitter. Here, users can post adult content but not in highly visible areas on the platform such as in live videos, profile, header or List banner images. People who choose to share adult content need to mark their account as sensitive, which will place their photos and videos behind a warning message that is shown before the media can be viewed. Users can choose to view such content or avoid it. Twitter also said that exceptions can be made for artistic, medical, health or educational content.
Since the law and cultural sensitivity towards nude artwork differs from one country to another, it may be hard for social media platforms to determine what users consider obscene and could have a difficult job of deciding which content to remove and in which regions.
Do you consider nude artwork to be obscene? Do you think social media companies should take down such content? Let us know your thoughts on our Facebook page.
Written by Sophia Lopez