COMMENTARY: Hey Facebook, quit deleting photos of Natives

by Aug 23, 2023OPINIONS0 comments


One Feather Asst. Editor


CHEROKEE, N.C. – Last evening, I uploaded a photo I took of men of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) playing stickball during the Annual Kituwah Celebration in June.  That photo was almost immediately deleted by Facebook stating it went against their community standards on “nudity or sexual activity”.

The photo in question is attached to this article so you can check it out for yourself.  Like all stickball games, the men are shirtless, but they’re certainly not nude nor is there any sexual activity going on.

The photo above, showing men of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians playing stickball at the Annual Kituwah Celebration in June, was removed by Facebook recently citing it violated Community Standards on nudity. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photo)

Sadly, this is not even close to the first time Facebook has deleted photos like this.  A friend of mine had a photo of his son, shirtless at a pool in Florida, deleted recently.  And, I’ve been contacted by several other parents stating that photos they posted of their sons playing stickball, or posing after a game, have been deleted by Facebook.  One Cherokee mother was even threatened by Facebook with having her entire page removed if she received one more “infraction”.

Are you serious?

First off, among many tribes and families, having long hair is a cultural practice.  So, many Native boys have long hair, and Facebook staff is mistaking them for girls.  That’s what is happening in most of these cases.

I get that they want to keep sexualized images of children off their platform.  But, how in the world are these images even close to that filth?  Also, Facebook, do your research and learn about cultures before you condemn photos and threaten users of your platform.

There is obviously a huge lack of knowledge here on the part of Facebook and its staff.

Other than simply opening their eyes and learning about different cultures, I’d also recommend that Facebook staff not jump the gun.  If staff had contacted me, I would have gladly explained my photograph as I’m sure most of the parents affected would do as well.

Simple communication could avoid many of these problems.  I think it is beyond time for Facebook to have a Native American Committee to address some of these issues going forward.

Facebook’s Community Standards policies are not a bad idea.  It’s the way they’re being carried out that is the issue.

On their page labeled “Transparency”, Facebook states that the platform is being used by over 2 billion people.  “Meta recognizes how important it is for Facebook to be a place where people feel empowered to communicate, and we take our role seriously in keeping abuse off the service…these standards are based on feedback from people and advice of experts in fields like technology, public safety, and human rights.  To ensure everyone’s voice is valued, we take great care to create standards that include different views and beliefs, especially from people and communities that might otherwise be overlooked or marginalized.”

Ok, Facebook, read that last sentence again.  Now, read it again.

Indian Country is routinely overlooked and marginalized.  This could be an opportunity for Facebook to truly go by its own doctrine and include different view and beliefs (and customs and traditions) into its policies.