Facebook apologized Thursday for disabling the account of an Iowa birth photographer who posted pictures the company initially deemed inappropriate, including shots of a friend and her newborn moments after birth that partially showed her friend's breasts, but not her nipples.
Facebook wrote in an e-mail to Laura Eckert that it had restored her account and that its decision to deactivate it on Dec. 22 was "in error." The company also apologized for "the inconvenience" she experienced.
Eckert's photography business, New Creation Photography & Design, specializes in pictures of pregnant women and the first moments of a baby's life. She uses Facebook to communicate with clients and highlight her work. She said she was shocked when Facebook told her last month it had removed inappropriate photos from her page, saying she had carefully cropped pictures to comply with company policies.
Eckert, 33, said when she tried to log on to find out which photos were targeted, she found her account was disabled. She said she sent 30 or more e-mails to Facebook to inquire and try to be reactivated and didn't get a response until Thursday, a day after KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids reported on her plight.
Her supporters had formed a group on Facebook to lobby for her reinstatement, saying the company was hypocritical for targeting photos they considered beautiful art while routinely allowing pictures of teenage girls dressed provocatively and others they consider obscene.
"It's funny it happened after the media got involved. I sent many polite e-mails asking for information over the course of the last few weeks and got no response. None," she said in an interview Thursday afternoon at her home in Shueyville, a small town between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.
Facebook spokesman Simon Axten said the company reviews thousands of pieces of content every day and takes action to ensure Facebook "remains a safe and trusted environment for everyone."
"Of course, we make an occasional mistake. This is an example," he said in an e-mail. "When this happens, and it's brought to our attention, we work quickly to resolve the issue."
While Facebook never told Eckert which photos were inappropriate, she said she believes the one or two at issue were pictures she took of her friend, Leslie Kung, after Kung gave birth in her bathtub in May. The pictures show the mother and baby embracing for the first time, and parts of Kung's breasts can be seen, but not her nipples.
Eckert said Facebook warned her that some of Kung's birth photos were inappropriate when she first posted them in May because they contained nudity. She said she carefully went through them, removing some and cropping others to make sure they did not contain nipples or genitalia so they complied with Facebook policies. She said that was the last she heard of it until Facebook disabled her personal profile, business page and a page she started to connect with other birth photographers.
Eckert said she was relieved to be able to log on to Facebook again, but that she's still unclear which birth photos the company allows. She sent another inquiry Thursday trying to find out.
"I need a little bit of clarity on what is a violation and what's not. I'm going to shoot another birth in a week or two and I'm going to want to share those photos," she said. "I see the miraculousness of it. Maybe that clouds my judgment a little bit."