West Papua on verge of bloody crackdown
Names of PNG: Oala Oala-Rarua

‘Racist’ Facebook doesn’t get the picture

Censored image of Uiaku schoolgirls (PJ Money  1908. Australian Museum)
Censored image. The photo of Uiaku schoolgirls was taken by PJ Money in 1908 (Australian Museum)

| Guardian Australia

SYDNEY - Facebook has been accused of “discriminatory and racist” behaviour after it deleted historical photos from a group that publishes archival photos of men and women from Papua New Guinea.

The group, which boasts over 55,000 members, claims photos showing traditional dress or ceremonies were deleted for allegedly containing nudity – but photos showing nudity among white people were not.

Link here to the Taim Bipo Facebook group – Photo History PNG

They are now calling on the social media giant to reconsider how it applies its community standards.

The group encourages users to post any historical photos with whatever background information that can be provided, with many publishing detailed breakdowns of photos from a wide range of contexts.

But users have been complaining of feeling censored, accusing Facebook of deleting some of the photos and banning some users from posting.

One of the group’s administrators, Arthur Smedley, told the Guardian he found Facebook’s application of its policy “ridiculous” after a fellow administrator, Peter Tate, was allegedly banned for posting a photo of a group of men “bare-chested with no covering to the upper part of their bodies”.

“As far as I’m concerned, it would mean for us in Australia that we’d be banned from posting images of men going to the beach during summer,” Smedley said.

“Some users have said they’ve found these bans to be discriminatory and racist, that they take this stand against traditional, cultural activities.”

Smedley understood when others in the group claimed the censorship was racist.

“You could see it as racist, that an American company is discriminating against this group of people, saying these photos are banned from our group. The attitude is just incredible.”

A spokesperson for Facebook said that images had been removed in “error” and were being restored.

“Photos from this group were removed in error by an automated system but they have now been restored. We apologise for this mistake.”

Peter Kranz, a former executive director of information resources at the University of Papua New Guinea, said the heavy-handed approach was surprising.

“I’ve been blocked on three occasions for posting photos that are legitimate from historical documents, and are found in museums, libraries and collections around the world,” he said.

“It makes me very sad and disappointed, that we seem to be banning material that is of genuine academic and historical interest.

“In fact a lot of the material you could find at the Australian national archives, or the British Museum or the University of California.

“It is very disappointing that documents in the public domain, and of value historically, are being blocked by Facebook for what seems to be trivial reasons.”

Kranz said he was banned for posting photos of traditional courtship ceremonies, as well as photos from expeditions and from a funeral, and was told they were being deleted for nudity.

Users say the group had become a space for people to connect with their past and ancestors. Photograph: Australian National Library

“I thought to myself, ‘Why are they blocking these photos, which have a lot of historical validity, yet allow people to post trivial stuff elsewhere?’

“It just suggests a bit of racism. They don’t seem to be applying their standards consistently.”

Kranz estimates that up to a dozen other users have been banned from posting in the group.

Kranz, who lived in PNG for five years and who has access to a wealth of historical material via his previous role at the University of Papua New Guinea, said the group had come to serve an important communal purpose.

“A lot of people find it very encouraging to find pictures and stories about the history of their country, and it is educating a lot of young people about the past,” he said.

The group enables the PNG people to connect with their past (Australian National Library)
Tanim het. The Taim Bipo Facebook group enables the PNG people to connect with their past (Australian National Library)

The group had become a space for people to connect with their past and their ancestors, Kranz said.

“It’s very heartening when I come across a photo that is in living memory and someone will say ‘Hey, that’s my great-grandmother, I remember her, I saw her in the village in the ‘80s!’

“It can get very personal sometimes when people recognise their ancestors and relatives from the photos.”

Facebook’s community standards are applied by a combination of algorithm-driven AI, reports from users and reviews by their teams.

They can make exceptions in the application of the standards if the content is “newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest”.

Facebook was accused in April of not doing enough to remove hate speech and racism on its platform.

The Australian Muslim Advocacy Network has lodged a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission over what the group alleges is Facebook’s failure to prevent the spread of hate speech.


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Bernard Corden

Dear Robert,

This is the subtle difference between technology and technique and is examined quite comprehensively by Jacques Ellul:


Robert Wilson

The problem now is when people rely on social media platforms to communicate their ideas, lives and now use it as a discussion platform for an unlimited number of people across the world.

In theory a fantastic medium but in reality, which has now become obvious, a tool whereby ideology is being pushed and anyone looking to dispute, disagree or counter argue or inadvertently cross someone's forbidden line, are being cancelled or as in the cases mentioned above censored.

These platforms that are now so dominate in our lives is how big tech (facebook/twitter etc) are dictating how we should be thinking.

One only needs to look at some very dangerous trends starting to be pushed into our society through our education systems looking to maintain indoctrination of our children during the most informative years of their life.

How our media is deliberately avoiding telling us the news/truth as it happens but is more about their reporters pushing their opinions usually along the lines of the ideology they are promoting.

Why are young children being told to question their sexuality at such a young age, why are we allowing this sinister "critical race theory" to be promoted in our education and throughout mainstream society.

We have totally lost the plot and social media is now being used as a tool to promote a breakdown in our society.

I do not use any of those social media platforms and prefer to use email and phone to maintain contact with friends and family.

Baka Bina

You should have seen the graduating Engan lass from the last University of Goroka graduation. Top meri stret.

John Gordon-Kirkby

Haha! Double standards!

Total or partial male and female nudity was something a kiap in the service of PNG experienced more frequently than not.

I was one of those shut down by Facebook for reposting a 'Taim Bifo' 1920’s Bougainville photo of bare-breasted women (with nipples blacked out).

I was also censored for posting some of my owns slides.

As soon as I was released from their censorship I posted a full frontal photo of the statue of David by Michelangelo and that of a the Nude Maja by Francisco de Goya. For doing so I was not punished.

I have lived most of my life without Facebook, and I have since minimised my presence on it.

Mipela leis long Faisbuk.

Bernard Corden

The following link provides access to a fascinating article from Henry Giroux entitled 'Against Apartheid Pedagogy in the Age of White Supremacy'.


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