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Update August 2018


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August 11, 2018 - August 17, 2018

It’s Rubens vs. Facebook in fight over artistic nudity

In this photo taken on Thursday, July 26, 2018, a visitor looks at the restored Peter Paul Rubens self-portrait from 1628 in the Rubenshouse in Antwerp, Belgium. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

Raf Casert

Brussels (AP) - For four centuries, the opulent, exuberant nudes of Peter Paul Rubens have been known to shock and delight in sometimes equal measure. And now somehow, even in 2018, his Baroque paintings are still jolting the internet.

Belgian museums are uniting in protest against Facebook since they cannot promote Flemish Masters including Rubens at will for falling foul of the social media site’s adult content rules and automatic censorship.

“The bare breasts and buttocks painted by our artist are considered by you to be inappropriate. We have noticed that Facebook consistently rejects works of art by our beloved Peter Paul Rubens,” over a dozen top Belgian art officials wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The Visit Flanders tourist board even produced a mock news video where security officials prevent visitors from seeing nudity in the Rubens House museum, one even spreading his arms in front of the Adam & Eve painting, where the biblical figures are covered only by the proverbial fig leaf. Instead they divert them to other paintings where everyone is properly dressed.

Point made, they hope.

“Twenty percent of the (Facebook) posts that we dedicated to the Flemish Masters couldn’t be shown to our audience, our cultural audience worldwide,” said spokeswoman Tama d’Haen of Visit Flanders.

“It’s really embarrassing for Visit Flanders that we cannot show one of our main assets to the world. That’s why we came up with the idea of a video,” said d’Haen.

Facebook says it understands the issues at hand. Even if it allows for paintings like those from Rubens to be posted, it has more restrictive rules when it comes to advertising which “must not contain adult content. This includes nudity, depictions of people in explicit or suggestive positions, or activities that are overly suggestive or sexually provocative.”

The rules go on to say that it includes “nudity or implied nudity, even if artistic or educational in nature.”

And that is where Rubens and other masters get caught in the act.

D’Haen said that they want Facebook to “make a difference between nudity in general, pornographic nudity, which is of course not allowed on their platform, and the nudity which is part of many paintings hanging in Flanders and worldwide.” D’Haen said they never get complaints from museum goers that they feel shocked when coming face-to-face with the nudity.

She said both sides have already agreed to a meeting to discuss it more in detail. Facebook wrote in a statement to the Associated Press on that “as part of a longer running and continuous review process, we want to make sure that museums and other institutions are able to share some of their most iconic paintings.”

“We are thus currently reviewing our approach to nudity in paintings in ads on Facebook,” the statement said.

The censorship wouldn’t be unfamiliar to Rubens. After all, the Roman Catholic church in his time already asked him to paint loincloths over body parts of his Venus figures, although he preferred the natural concourse of muscle, skin, and fat.

It was always thus, said Paolo Grossi, Director and Area Coordinator of the Italian Cultural Institute in Brussels.

“Everyone knows the story of Il Braghettone, the famous Daniele da Volterra who was asked to paint loincloths over Michelangelo’s nudes in the Last Judgment,” in the papal Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, Grossi said.

If that was prompted by moral concerns, Grossi wondered if Facebook was now driven “by the need to deliver a politically correct message ... and comply with Facebook’s ad and business model to avoid any ripples.”


August 4, 2018 - August 10, 2018

Facebook suspends Boston analytics firm over data usage

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

New York (AP) - Facebook said last week that it has suspended Boston-based analytics firm Crimson Hexagon while it investigates how it collects and shares Facebook and Instagram’s user data.

Facebook has been facing increased scrutiny over how third-party firms use its data since news broke in March that data firm Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed user data.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that Facebook had suspended Crimson Hexagon. The newspaper says among the firm’s clients is a Russian nonprofit with ties to the Kremlin.

“We don’t allow developers to build surveillance tools using information from Facebook or Instagram,” said Ime Archibong, Facebook’s vice president of product partnerships. “We take these allegations seriously, and we have suspended these apps while we investigate.”

Facebook said Friday that Crimson Hexagon is cooperating and that so far its investigation hasn’t found evidence that the firm obtained Facebook or Instagram information inappropriately.

Crimson Hexagon says on its website it has access to over one trillion consumer conversations from social media, forums, blogs and reviews.

In a blog posting, Crimson Hexagon Chief Technology Officer Chris Bingham said the company “abides completely” by the rules social media sites including Twitter and Facebook put in place to limit the ways third-party companies can use their data.

He said the firm only collects publicly available social media data. He contrasted that with Cambridge Analytica’s use of private user data.

Users of Crimson Hexagon’s platform, which include government customers, analyze the data to understand large-scale consumer trends and preferences, Bingham wrote.

“Government entities that leverage the Crimson Hexagon platform do so for the same reasons as many of our other non-government customers: a broad-based and aggregate understanding of the public’s perception, preferences and sentiment about matters of concern to them,” he wrote.


July 28, 2018 - August 3, 2018

Microsoft raises alarms about face recognition

Redmond, Wash. (AP) - Microsoft is calling on Congress to regulate the use of facial recognition technology to protect people’s privacy and freedom of expression.

It’s the first big tech company to raise serious alarms about an increasingly sought-after technology for recognizing a person’s face from a photo or through a camera.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a blog post Friday that the government should form a bipartisan expert commission.

Smith says Microsoft, which supplies face recognition to some businesses, has already rejected some customers’ requests to deploy the technology in situations involving “human rights risks.”

A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to provide more details about what opportunities the company has passed over because of ethical concerns.

Smith defended the company’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying it doesn’t involve face recognition.
 


DAILY UPDATE

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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

It’s Rubens vs. Facebook in fight over artistic nudity


Facebook suspends Boston analytics firm over data usage


Microsoft raises alarms about face recognition


 



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