Why Did Facebook Censor Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid?

Denmark is outraged.

Edvard Eriksen, The Little Mermaid (1913). Photo by Avda-berlin, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

There’s much ado in Denmark this week after Facebook allegedly censored a photograph of the little mermaid statue, one of the country’s most famous national monuments.

Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairly tale, the 102-year-old bronze by sculptor Edvard Eriksen is displayed on a rock at the seafront Langelinie promenade in Copenhagen. Over the years it has become symbolic of the Danish capital and a major tourist attraction.

On Saturday, Danish parliamentarian Mette Gjerskov of the Social Democrat party announced on her Facebook page that the social network stopped her from uploading an image of the iconic artwork, calling the censorship “More than comical.”

“The Little Mermaid is simply too undressed for Facebook,” she wrote. “I cannot advertise for my blog because TV2 chose the mermaid as the [main image]. I hadn’t seen it coming that our national treasure would be categorized on the same level as child pornography and that sort of abomination.”

The Little Mermaid is Copenhagen's most famous tourist destination. Photo by Copenhagen Tourism Media.

The Little Mermaid is Copenhagen’s most famous tourist destination. Photo by Copenhagen Tourism Media.

Commenting on Gjerskov’s post, one Facebook user wrote “Ridiculous. It’s an International icon like the statue of liberty.”

In a later post published on Sunday, Gjerskov added that Facebook had reversed the decision. However, she lamented the fact that the public Danish broadcaster TV2 removed the image from her blog over copyright regulations.

“TV2 has removed the Little Mermaid from my blog because it risks a large bill due to the copyright. It turns out that you can’t publish photos of our national treasure without generous payment to the artist’s heirs. It’s the law—which parliament adopted.”

According to the Telegraph, the censorship comes after Facebook updated its guidelines. The social network reportedly bans nudity because “some audiences within our global community may be sensitive to this type of content.”

Posting images of bare female breasts are prohibited if nipples are visible, unless the photo shows women “actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring.”

However, Facebook guidelines do allow images of paintings and sculptures depicting nude figures.

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