OnlyFans has an amazing new member: the Vienna Tourist Board.
No, his account will not have photos of employees outside of working hours. Instead, the council will use an adult-only site to display images of paintings and sculptures on display in the Austrian capital that have been blocked by social media sites for nudity or sexual content.
Offensive works of art include Venus of Willendorf, a 25,000-year-old limestone statue of a woman. Several years ago, Facebook removed his photo from the Natural History Museum Vienna page as “pornographic.”
There is also Liebespaar, a painting by Koloman Moser from the early 20th century, which the Leopold Museum included in a video post celebrating his anniversary in September. The video, blocked by Instagram and Facebook algorithms, “is a combination of the details of the work and the written feeling that the painting evokes,” said Christine Cociu, the museum’s social media manager. “It depicts a nude couple embracing. It’s really nice. “
While nudity on Instagram and Facebook is generally prohibited, there are some exceptions on these platforms.
For example, Instagram’s community guidelines say: “Taking photos in the context of breastfeeding, childbirth and the postpartum moments, health situations (eg after mastectomy, breast cancer awareness or gender reassignment surgery) or protesting are permitted. Nudity in photographs of paintings and sculptures is also permissible. “
Facebook’s rules allow nudity in photographs of “paintings, sculptures and other works of art,” and TikTok writes that it “may allow exceptions” to its ban on nudity and sexually explicit material.
Despite the flexibility of platform guidelines, museums and other institutions publishing photographs of art found that nudity was not always considered acceptable. Part of the reason may be that social media censorship is less a matter of public opinion than the sensitivity of the artificial intelligence used to flag content that violates site rules.
Social media platforms did not respond to requests for comment on the seemingly conflicting rules and how they are applied.
“We don’t have an anti-technology agenda,” said Norbert Kettner, director of the Vienna Tourism Board. But after the city’s museums were faced with one after another of social media sites shutting down their posts, he said, “We thought, ‘What could be an alternative? »What would be a channel where nudity is not a problem in itself? “
Mr Kettner said the OnlyFans account is not a permanent solution, but rather a protest against censorship and a call to talk. “We want to draw attention to one thing,” he said. “We want to share this to talk about the role of artificial intelligence and algorithms.”
This is not the first time the Tourism Board has spoken out against censorship. In 2017, the council approached several cities with a proposal to display large-scale nude advertisements of Egon Schiele, an early 20th century Austrian artist known for his vivid depictions of the human body.
“We wanted to know how much we as a society can deal with nudity that was produced 100 or 110 years ago?” said Mr Kettner. As it turned out, not much.
Officials in England and Germany found the images to be too explicit. In the end, the Vienna Tourist Board decided to use the opt-out as an opportunity. Posters appeared in London, Hamburg, Cologne and New York with some body parts hidden by stripes with the text: “Sorry, I’m 100 years old, but today it is still too bold.”
Vienna is far from the only city whose art has been censored on the Internet. Many works of art from around the world have been mistakenly identified by AI as pornography. Facebook removed photographs from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (Imogen Cunningham nude photos), Philadelphia Museum of Art (Evelyn Axell painting of a woman licking an ice cream cone), and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (from Amedeo Modigliani’s 1917 nude painting woman).
A teacher in France is suing Facebook after social media deleted his account after he posted an image of The Origin of the World by Gustave Courbet, a 19th-century painting in which the female vagina is the center of attention. In 2018, a court ruled that Facebook was at fault, but did not award damages to the plaintiff. And in 2016, a Danish politician said she could not post a link to her blog on Facebook because the post included a photo of The Little Mermaid, a public sculpture in Copenhagen that appears to show too much skin by social media standards.
Ms Cochu said that Facebook and Instagram’s algorithms have improved over the past few years in identifying works of art. So the platforms’ decision to block video ads featuring Liebespaar, as well as Schiele’s nude self-portrait, surprised her.
In such cases, there is no choice but to submit an appeal to the platform. “Sometimes it’s depressing,” said Ms. Cochu. “People can decide whether they like artwork or not, but not being able to show it because of the algorithm is weird.”
According to Mr. Kettner, the situation with contemporary artists is even worse. “Young artists depend on online channels,” he said. “We think and feel that there is a kind of unconscious self-censorship going on in the brains of these artists. “What can I publish?” This is even more serious. The algorithm was suddenly able to determine our cultural heritage for tomorrow. “