Facebook Deleting Swazi Reed dance pictures due to nudity

So the other day we posted an article about the Swazi Reed dance and led with a beautiful image of the Imbali (Swazi young girls) at the reed dance – in full swing. A few hours later we received a message from Facebook telling us that they took down the image because it violated their guidelines. They then gave us homework via a forced link i.e. to review all other images we had uploaded on the site and to make sure they are acceptable. We love being on Facebook so we complied.

Obviously someone who say our post on their wall reported the post as “offensive”. We do understand why Facebook would do this but this raises the question of what is nudity or how it is defined exactly. On this side of the world, the pictures of celebrities we see all over Facebook are considered nudity.


And these that are happily shared all over the social network

Generally most Swazis consider this nudity while the reed dance pictures are considered cultural and honorable. They will tell you, it’s not nudity when it’s a teenager showing off their skin than an old sometimes married woman. This is how older (married) women are expected to look.

Women in traditional Swazi costume admiring the Queen’s Baton 2010 Delhi just before their cultural performance in Lobamba that concluded the first day of the Queen’s Baton Relay 2010 Delhi in Swaziland on January 16, 2010.

It looks like cultural diversity confuses Facebook and we feel for them because they really can never design an algorithm of filtering solutions that understand the nuances of culture. Let me make an example, while westerners considers nudity to be a show off of two private body parts most traditional Swazis feel the image of a woman showing their shoulders borders on nudity.


I wonder how Facebook would react to an “offensive report” by a Swazi user for this picture above.

Here’s an idea!

How about they restrict certain images to certain regions and also consider “spam or offensive” reports from users within that regions only. Tell me that’s not a great idea.

Here is the thing about the Swaziland Reed dance (Umhlanga) – we love it because we are 100% Swazi but of course we know you have something to say about it Swazi or not. So what’s your two cents worth on this topic? Please share below.

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