For background, I've written about this here, here, and here. My wife discussed some of the scientific data on "pro-ana" sites and offered some really helpful advice here.
So here goes, the email I sent at 8:02am Wednesday:
I'm David Wescott and I'm a member of Facebook. I write a column for Business Lexington called "Living Locally, Working Globally." I also write a blog called " It's Not a Lecture." The Lexington, KY network on Facebook is rather robust, as you may know. You may also know that last month a local Applebee's forced a woman out of their restaurant because she was breastfeeding. This sparked a national protest and it continues to be a topic of discussion on the national level.
I was surprised to read reports in the Canadian media that Facebook had banned a member because she had posted pictures of herself breastfeeding her child. I noticed a newsworthy disconnect when I also learned via BBC and Canadian media sites that Facebook has roughly 350 "pro-ana" groups not only condoning anorexia but suggesting ways for people (young girls suffer from anorexia disproportionately) to continue to starve themselves. Recent research published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that visiting "pro-ana" websites made women feel
negative emotions and have poor social self-esteem. I am not aware of any scientific data that suggests looking at pictures of breastfeeding women elicits similar emotions or responses.
I have written about this disconnect on my blog and I'm planning to write a column on the free speech implications - specifically how a social networking site would clamp down on speech and activity on the issue of breastfeeding but not on "pro-anorexia" groups. I want to give you an opportunity to respond - explain your policy, perhaps give some background on the situation that I may be missing. I am aware that there are many pro-breastfeeding groups on Facebook. I am also aware of a new protest group with several thousand members.
I would appreciate a statement or comment from you regarding this specific speech issue and the apparent disconnect here. Please email me at [email address] by Thursday, 5pm ET with any statement or relevant details, or feel free to call me at [cellphone]. Thanks much.
Here's what I got back:
Please attribute this statement to Facebook or a Facebook spokesperson.
So I wrote back:
Thanks [name] - I appreciate the quick response.
Did the specific case reported in the Edmonton media last week involve a case that violated this policy?
And do you have any statement regarding "pro-ana" groups on Facebook?
Please attribute to Facebook or a Facebook spokesperson.
I think I'll just open it up here at this point for discussion, and then I may add some thoughts of my own later. And I do plan on writing a column about this. But I thought it was important and fair to get Facebook's comments out there, verbatim, in public - and I pledge to pass on anything else they send me.