Facebook Censors Asian Art Museum’s Racy Ad

Does Facebook really think the museum is selling sex toys?

The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Photo Ken Lund, via Flickr.
The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Photo Ken Lund, via Flickr.

San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum apparently went a bit too far for the censors at Facebook in an ad for a new show. The social media behemoth removed an ad including a link to a story headlined with references to sex toys, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

It all started with the upcoming exhibition “Tomb Treasures: New Discoveries from China’s Han Dynasty.” The first US display for 160 finds from recent excavations, the show will reveal, says the museum, that “the nobility spared no expense preserving the tools of earthly pleasures—food, music, wine, sex—in anticipation of an afterlife to surpass this world.”

It’s the “sex” part, naturally, that led to an article at the website IFL Science! with the blaring headline “Bronze Dildos and Jade Butt Plugs Show Life and Death in Ancient China.”

Bronze phallus, unearthed from Tomb 1, Dayun Mountain, Xuyi, Jiangsu. Western Han period (206 BC–9 AD), 2nd century BC. Photograph © Nanjing Museum.

Bronze phallus, unearthed from Tomb 1, Dayun Mountain, Xuyi, Jiangsu. Western Han period (206 BC–9 AD), 2nd century BC. Photograph © Nanjing Museum.

When the institution included a link to the article in an advertisement, staffers got a notice informing them that ads “can’t promote sexual or adult products or services,” reports the Chronicle (never mind that the museum is hardly selling sex toys).

There’s a range of reactions to the museum’s Facebook post that links to the article.

The Asian Art Mueum's Facebook post linking to the article.

The Asian Art Mueum’s Facebook post linking to the article.

“Really?” writes Fran Sturgess. “This is what you take away from the new exhibition? Vulgar much?”

Others find material for topical humor.

“Want to know where you can see a 70-year-old orange dildo?” writes Ryan Villiers. “The White House. It’s on display for the next four years.”

“Tomb Treasures: New Discoveries from China’s Han Dynasty” will be on view at the Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco, February 17–May 28, 2017.


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