Mastectomy support page in ‘constant battle’ with Facebook over ‘nudity’ images

A mastectomy support group on Facebook says it faces a “constant battle” with the social media platform to keep its page open, despite not posting content which breaks any of the company’s rules.

Jay Walker, the founder of the Mastectomy Network page, said several images have been removed from the page, despite Facebook‘s community guidelines allowing mastectomy photos.

“We regularly have images removed for containing ‘nudity or sexual activity’, despite mastectomy images being included within the community standards,” Ms Walker, a compliance officer from Manchester, told the Press Association (PA) news agency.

Images were even removed during October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Around one in eight women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime.

If detected early enough, the disease can be treated and recovery chances are good. Some women have preventative surgeries to protect themselves before developing the disease.

A radiologist examines breast X-rays
Image: One in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer

Ms Walker, 41, said her support group was “warned that if we continue to post images that are against community standards, the support group and page will be restricted or permanently deleted”.

She has run the Mastectomy Network pages on Facebook and Instagram for four years. She said the restrictions have made it harder for people to find the group using the site’s search function.

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“We have tested this with several Facebook profiles that have never previously searched for or visited Mastectomy Network, using the same generic search terms… and the group is no longer shown in the search results,” she told PA.

One of the aims of the support group is to “normalise” the surgery, said Ms Walker, who had a preventative mastectomy four years ago due to a suspect genetic abnormality.

However, because the procedure was preventative, she was not permitted to join any breast cancer support groups.

Ms Walker said that her support group was open to “anyone who’s had a mastectomy” regardless of whether they had been a cancer patient.

Facebook told PA that post-mastectomy breast photographs are allowed on its platforms, as are images of breasts in the context of breastfeeding, protest, birth, and post-birth – and explained its nudity policies have become more nuanced over time.

A spokeswoman said: “Jay’s profile shouldn’t have been suspended, and we have restored the posts that were removed – this was a mistake and we’re sorry for any upset this has caused.

“Whilst adult nudity isn’t allowed on Facebook, we make exceptions for posts which are clearly intended as medical or educational. This can include images of post-mastectomy scarring.”

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