After reading articles with titles such as “The web presents deaf and disabled people with a digital glass wall” and “Hate crimes against disabled people soar to a record level,” we thought back to an article from earlier this year that reported on Facebook’s massively inappropriate and discriminatory treatment of a child born with a birth defect.
A recent article in the NY Daily News reported how an American mom who posted photographs of her son born with anencephaly (a neural tube birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull) was reprimanded by Facebook as the photographs of her son were removed from the site. After reposting the photographs of her son she was banned from usage for 24 hours. According to Facebook, the reason for removing the photographs was said to be because of their content. The social network site later apologized and said that removing the photographs was a mistake.
Facebook has nine content breaches which warrant a user being banned from the site or the removal of content. These are:
- Violence and Threats
- Bullying and Harassment
- Hate Speech
- Graphic Violence
- Nudity and Pornography
- Identity and Privacy
- Intellectual Property
- Phishing and Spam
Even according to the site’s own content breaches, the removal of the photographs of the baby was unwarranted. There are so many issues with the fact that Facebook removed the photos of a newborn baby (who very sadly only lived for eight hours) because of his birth defect. First, Facebook decides that photographs of a baby with a birth defect are a type of abuse of the system and therefore removes the photographs. Secondly, Facebook inadvertently decides about the physical appearance of people and what is considered appropriate appearances in the photographs featured by members using the service. Thirdly, Facebook then insinuates that children with birth defects are not beautiful and are not worthy of being featured on the site. And finally, Facebook then assumes that no one would want to view the photographs of the child and that other people would find them offensive. The decision to remove the photographs reflects an underlying message which states that people with birth defects are “other,” are not beautiful or worth looking at, are a type of content abuse, and are not worthy of admiration or public attention. It thereby becomes a “wrongdoing” to share pictures of a baby with a birth defect.
Actions such as these clearly promote ableism while simultaneously discriminating against people with disabilities. Facebook’s action suggests that a birth defect is something that is wrong, unpleasant, shameful, and shocking and therefore should not be shared with others, especially not through photographs in which the birth defect can be seen. This type of policing of what is deemed “normal” or “accepted” is appalling and discriminatory and is just another example of the discrimination that disabled individuals face.