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by Bryce J. Renninger
August 5, 2013 3:41 PM
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Are Some Films Too Sexy for Facebook?

A censored version of the "Nymphomaniac" still that got Indiewire in trouble with the Facebook censors.

Indie creators are told that they must promote their film through all venues that are available to them.  Chief among those platforms is Facebook.  Using sexually explicit images to promote your films on Facebook, though, is a no-no.

Indiewire found out this the hard way, when all admins on the Indiewire page were warned or punished after we promoted a page on our site that featured a new still of Charlotte Gainsbourg and Shia LeBeouf canoodling from Lars von Trier's new film "Nymphomaniac."

Old debates about where art ends and pornography begins seem to be rehearsing themselves again on Facebook.  Here's the line about nudity and sexually explicit material in Facebook's guidelines:

Facebook has a strict policy against the sharing of pornographic content and any explicitly sexual content where a minor is involved. We also impose limitations on the display of nudity. We aspire to respect people’s right to share content of personal importance, whether those are photos of a sculpture like Michelangelo's David or family photos of a child breastfeeding.

According to this Facebook infographic that explains what happens when someone is reported, sexually explicit posts get the reportee warnings and revoked privileges.

Speaking with us about our problem with the Facebook censors, Andrew McGraime, Head of Interactive Marketing at Magnolia Pictures (which is releasing "Nymphomaniac" in the US in early 2014), first laughed and then explained that the company changed how it promoted things on Facebook after it released an early image from "Nymphomaniac" that featured Charlotte Gainsbourg and two men, all naked.  "There were a lot of complaints in the comments.  We weren't reported, but it just caused us to change our strategy - what time we posted and stuff."

He went on to say, "We released 'The ABC's of Death' and we would put the most disgusting images up -- none of that ever got any complaints.  You show side boob, and people get all up in arms."

The release of images and video content for "Nymphomaniac" is especially important for the film because von Trier has sworn off publicity after a Cannes press conference that resulted in the filmmaker being declared persona non grata by the festival.  

Von Trier is not the only filmmaker who thinks that showing sexually explicit material is integral to their work.  Filmmaker Travis Mathews ("Interior. Leather Bar.," "I Want Your Love") had his posting privileges revoked from Facebook for 24 hours after posting images from his documentary series "In Their Room."  Mathews told Indiewire, "I felt like I was grounded and was sent a pretty generic email saying that I needed to go through my pics and clean out the naughties or it would happen again.  I was told that if I didn't comply then I'd risk being banned from Facebook forever."

Mathews still uses the Internet to promote and display his work. His short and feature-length films, both titled "I Want Your Love," were both hosted on and produced with help from gay VOD site NakedSword.com.  (The film had problems IRL, though, when it was banned by the Australian Classification Board.

As crowdfunding sites become a more popular venue to raise funds for independent films, some creators are also questioning the policies of crowdfunding sites.  As a crowdfunding site, Offbeatr, specifically for porn has had its successes, the crowdfunding industry leaders have their own policies about sexually explicit content on their sites.  Kickstarter's policy reads more like a "we'l know pornography when we see it" standard, but Indiegogo explicitly prohibits "sexually oriented or explicit materials."

Kickstarter includes the following line its guidelines:

No offensive material (hate speech, etc.); pornographic material; or projects endorsing or opposing a political candidate.

Indiegogo's terms include the following:

By way of example, and not limitation, your promise means you will not use the Service:

  1. To offer, sell or distribute
       iii.Bullying, harassing, obscene or pornographic items, sexually oriented or explicit materials or services 
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3 Comments

  • lvflg | August 6, 2013 12:45 PMReply

    They can filter out whatever the want! fb is free.

  • christopher | August 5, 2013 7:42 PMReply

    Facebook just needs a setting (similar to Tumlbr NSFW) for "adult content" vs. filtering out everything they think is not appropriate.

  • Filmmaker from Staten Island | August 5, 2013 5:40 PMReply

    This is ridiculous. Another example of why America is so screwed up: violence okay, sex is not. Oh Europe, take me back, I swear my ancestors were being stupid when they left for this lame new world!!!!!