How do I handle inappropriate photos on Facebook?
November 29, 2010 8:23 PM   Subscribe

What should I do about inappropriate content on Facebook?

I was looking at my News Feed on Facebook when new photos were uploaded by a friend. Unknowingly I began to browse though the wash of normal photos that he had posted when it came to photos of his human biology class. Mostly normal stuff, lab photos with friends and a few photos of lecture slides.

Stupidly I clicked on a blurry brown photo only to discover I was looking at half a melting human face. This was not what I was looking for. Looking at the album I found several cadavers in various states of dissection. Yes; I should have known better, yes; I was pissed that I saw it. This is the kind of shit that gives me nightmares.

I want my friend to understand that posting images like this is inappropriate. I want them to be taken down in the most drama free way.

I see several options, I could write them a note telling them how I feel and asking them to take them down. I could flag them on Facebook. Or I could ignore them completely.

I do not want to be the crazy guy who tries to censor the net. If I am completely out of bounds here and should just forget about it let me know.

Part of my unease with the photos is that if they are in my Newsfeed they are most likely the first thing that 200 people will see when they look at Facebook. Again, I really do not want to be the internet police, but the images have been posted for three days. I was hoping that someone else would be the crazy guy but they are still up.

I am neither a good friend of the person, nor free from social obligation to him. Basically I will see this person in the future and would like for it to not be awkward.

I am sure that this is against school policy and I would not be shocked if he could get in serious trouble for posting them. This is something else that I would like to avoid.

I want to know how you would handle this and if I am crazy.
posted by Felex to Human Relations (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
He can post whatever he likes that doesn't violate the terms of use of Facebook.

You are free to report his pictures to Facebook, you are also free to unfriend or block him so you don't see his pics anymore.

Insisting that he take them down is well into crazy territory.
posted by davey_darling at 8:27 PM on November 29, 2010 [50 favorites]

I am neither a good friend of the person, nor free from social obligation to him. Basically I will see this person in the future and would like for it to not be awkward.

OK, then don't pursue this at all. Just hide him from your news feed so you don't see his disturbing photos. You can do this right now in 10 seconds and then you will be completely done with this issue.
posted by John Cohen at 8:30 PM on November 29, 2010 [12 favorites]

Again, I really do not want to be the internet police, but the images have been posted for three days.

So click the little X and select "Hide Dr. Frankenstein". Done.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:31 PM on November 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

Why don't you hide him from your news feed? You'll still be his FB friend, but you will no longer see his updates unless you make a point of going to his profile. If that's not enough, then you're going to have to ask him directly to not post that stuff. You're probably not the only one of his friends who doesn't want to see it. That doesn't mean it's a violation of FB TOS.
posted by katillathehun at 8:31 PM on November 29, 2010

I see several options, I could write them a note telling them how I feel and asking them to take them down. I could flag them on Facebook. Or I could ignore them completely.

A note telling him how you feel? What does it matter what you feel about the stuff on his page? Your other options revolve around you finding a way to get what you want about his page. That's unreasonable.

do not want to be the crazy guy who tries to censor the net

I think you don't want to think you are that person, but still get to censor the internet for your sensibilities. So something someone else has posted gives you nightmares - that is not their responsibility and as long as it doesn't violate the terms of the site it is on, it's none of your business past the proverbial walking away.

Just block/hide/'unfriend' someone that posts stuff you don't like.
posted by Brockles at 8:34 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

If he's really a friend, I might post a comment being like WTF dude, those pictures are gross, thanks a lot for ruining my lunch. I might flag, too, just to make myself feel better.

If he's not really a friend, I'd hide/defriend.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:36 PM on November 29, 2010 [9 favorites]

I want to know how you would handle this and if I am crazy.

I don't think you're crazy, you have your opinions on what is appropriate, your acquaintance has theirs, I have mine and the person posting after me has theirs. A good policy of life, I believe, is to be honest to yourself and to only be true friends with people that you enjoy having around and who enjoy having you around. However, it is also good to be out there seeing what other people enjoy and to try to understand the different perspectives of the populace of the world lest you be that person that tries to get libraries to remove books or friends to take down art in their apartment because you don't like it.

I personally just shrug if someone is into something I'm not, because that is their decision and who am I to control what they want to say about themselves by advertising things they find interesting. So I'd say just treat it as water under the bridge and learn to not let things like this get to you. If you can't deal with what they are into, and you don't want to see the photos, you can just de-friend them and send them a note saying why. It's not that you don't like their personality, it's just that you don't want to see those images. Be polite about it, be honest and be an adult.
posted by zombieApoc at 8:37 PM on November 29, 2010

He may well be in violation of his/your school's policy. I know that MY school had a strict no pictures of the cadavers policy even when our cadavers' faces were covered. To the best of my understanding, this was in line with the notion that people who donate their bodies to science deserve our greatest respect and we are to treat their gift as that. Posting pictures of their bodies in states of dissection where it is possible (however unlikely) that friends or family could stumble upon them would be grounds for you to get booted. So it may not conflict with facebook's terms of use, but it really really may his school's.
posted by ilikecookies at 8:37 PM on November 29, 2010 [4 favorites]

"dude, that half melted face really turned my stomach. You might wanna consider taking that stuff down...not everybody can stomach it."
posted by bananafish at 8:40 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's unethical to post pictures of cadavers, especially human cadavers. Any lab course involving dissection (in the US, anyway) will have policies about respectful treatment.

If you feel strongly about this, you could ensure that the pictures come down by taking some screen shots and emailing them to the Dean of Students, chair of the biology department, etc. This could totally screw up your friend's academic career / life, so I wouldn't do it lightly, but it's an option.

I don't like throwing people under bus, but I also don't like it when people are not respectful of the earthly remains of those who have made the difficult decision to donate their bodies to science. It's particularly despicable when the disrespect is perpetrated by those destined for careers in healthcare.
posted by charmcityblues at 8:40 PM on November 29, 2010 [25 favorites]

Looking at the [rest of the] album I found several cadavers in various states of dissection. Yes; I should have known better, yes; I was pissed that I saw it. This is the kind of shit that gives me nightmares.

The problem isn't as much with your Facebook friend as it is that you let your curiosity get the better of you. Anyone who sees the melty-face and keeps on going does so at their own mental peril.
posted by astrochimp at 8:43 PM on November 29, 2010 [12 favorites]

I think you should play the concern over the school's policy angle but don't mention how you personally feel. Maybe say something like "Doesn't [insert school name] have a policy against taking picture of cadavers? I'd take these down if I were you so you don't get in trouble." I'm pretty sure this will work, maybe he just wasn't thinking things through when he posted them.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:43 PM on November 29, 2010 [8 favorites]

I'm usually a person who would stay out of this sort of thing, but helly yes I would do a bit more in this case (and I will memail the OP).

Does anyone remember where cadavers came from? These were people who decided to donate their bodies so that students could learn from them and use that knowledge to treat other people medically,not take pictures like a prized animal from a safari. Some people are even upset that a loved one decides to be used a cadaver after death, but are okay with the compromise because teh person stated it as a desire after his or her death.

There are guidelines given to students at the start of each semester as to how to use the cadavers as learning tools, not like this.

I guarantee the school either does or if it finds out about, will have guidelines about this. I wouldn't be surprised if FB had a problem with this too as it already has stung them a few times.
posted by Wolfster at 8:44 PM on November 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

Flag it. That is inappropriate and certainly violates the facebook TOS.
posted by darkgroove at 8:56 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Hide him from your news feed. The fact that these pictures bother you sounds like a personal problem -- you don't have a right to have him take the pictures down, even if they are inappropriate (and I'm not convinced that they are... but I don't know anything about med school and cadaver ethics, if that's what we're talking about).
posted by J. Wilson at 9:13 PM on November 29, 2010

Since you wanted to know how other Mefites would handle this situation, my personal reaction would be this: Eewww, gross. Never going to click on his posted photos again.

And btw, there would be no drama-free way to get him to take the photos down. Wanting and trying to have the photos taken down instead of just ignoring them is equivalent to drama.
posted by mrdmsy at 9:42 PM on November 29, 2010

Thank you all for your responses. Some of this confirms several of my fears. On rereading this I do come off as a little crazy. On the other hand one of my goals is to not have my friend punished because he made a mistake.

If some of you would email the dean of students then I might need to warn him of the trouble he could be in. Oh, and I always figured it was against the TOS of facebook, and when I log into facebook I expect to see content within those guidelines. If facebook has problems with people posting photos of breastfeeding mothers then this has got to be outside the TOS. I also agree with the comments regarding ethics above.

I am thinking of emailing him, in a non threating way, with a heads up that he might land himself in hot water unless he takes down the photos.
posted by Felex at 9:57 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

On rereading this I do come off as a little crazy

disagree. You are not in the least crazy. To me it seems more "crazy" to think cadavers on FB is "okey dokey"! Even though the people in the photos are DEAD, they have rights! I like your idea to email this crackpot and tell him that this could prove difficult for him. It is the most logical thing to do. If he blows you off and you don't feel the need to go further, leave it there (but firm in the knowledge that you stood up a degree... for the departed!)
posted by naplesyellow at 10:24 PM on November 29, 2010

I'm printing this question out for all of the many times I hear 'but why aren't pictures allowed?' Because someone will not study from them so much as post them to Facebook. That is why no one can have nice things.

I cannot adequately convey the kind of unadulterated trouble that would rain down upon the student--and entire class--from all quarters of the university if this occurred in the program I work with. If he's in a professional program, incidents like this can taint the way people view his entire class, fairly or not. You do not want to be the person who gave your class a rep with the faculty/staff/administration the first semester of first year. You just don't. Feel free to remind him of his responsibilities to the dead and to his future colleagues.

(Incidentally, I don't usually work with people. You don't even get to take photos of animals like they're prized animals on safari.)
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 10:26 PM on November 29, 2010 [4 favorites]

First of all, the way your questions and follow-ups come off you're going to seem like an uptight prissy party-pooper.

The best way to maintain cordial relations with this dude is to not indicate whether you find the content inappropriate, but to warn that Facebook has shut down profiles for similar picture posting, and he could get in big trouble with his school if said pictures were found.

And if the dude keeps the pictures up, keep your mouth shut and hide them from your feed. Ultimately, it is not your business what pictures he posts, he does not force you to view them even if they come up on your feed. It's between him, his school, and Facebook, and it's not your place to be a judge or tattletale.
posted by schroedinger at 11:28 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would be outraged if some shithead posted pictures of my dead relative for his friends to jeer at on Facebook. I am sure he knows better, and if he doesn't, his professor should have told him better. Either way, I'd contact the school.
posted by Menthol at 11:31 PM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

If anybody at my university posted pictures like this on Facebook it would be a very, very serious disciplinary offence - and given the tight regulation on the use of human tissue in the UK, it might potentially be something that would involve the police. If the dissected face could be recognisable then they would be within their rights to throw the person out of the university right there and then, as it's a gross breach of confidentially and good practice.

I completely disagree with it not being your place to judge. These are the remains of a person who donated their body for education, probably with some reassurances what it would and wouldn't be used for. The existence of these pictures online is not only an insult to that person's family, but also may put other people off donating their bodies because of potential family distress. This sort of behaviour, in general, worries some people in anatomists as it may jeapordise their future supply of donations.

I would approach him in the first instance, as I suspect he's thoughtless rather than malicious. Don't just tell him about the potential trouble, ask him how he thinks the relatives of his cadaver would feel.
posted by Coobeastie at 1:10 AM on November 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

If these were pictures he got from random corners of the net, he's just acting in bad taste and you should hide him and be done with it.

If, as it seems clear, these are pictures he took in an anatomy class and is posting in an incredibly unethical way you should report him to the appropriate university body because he is violating fundamental principals of his prospective profession and you will be doing his future patients a great service. I'd see this as an ethical obligation you have to your profession. Do it anonymously, but do it.
posted by pseudonick at 1:19 AM on November 30, 2010

Yeah this isn't really a case of it being creepy and frowned upon. This is actually a very serious academic matter, and your friend can expect to go through disciplinary procedures should the university find out.

Here is an example of how seriously cadaver confidentiality is taken.

My (UK) university recently opened a new building for their medical school. At one stage during its construction it was found that the windows on a particular side of the building, if looked through at a fairly specific angle, allowed people who might happen to be on the roof (not inside, but on the roof!) of an adjacent building a small chance of seeing a dissection in progress.

The university was then obliged by law to spend tens of thousands of pounds to rectify the situation.

You have to tell him/her, and tell them of the trouble they will find themselves in should the university find out. If I saw my students doing this, I would not hesitate to invoke procedure on them.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 1:25 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I want to add: I think the answers are skewed a bit by your presentation of this question as you being skeeved out. The problem is not that you found the pictures unpleasant, the problem is he is acting unethically in a field where I believe the tolerance for unethical behavior should be very low.

I firmly believe you should report him. At the very least take him aside and explain to him the gravity of his error, couch it as a story you heard about another guy being drummed out of a similar program for such egregious behavior and make clear to him his peril.

Here is an example of a resident who got fired for posting cadavar pics and whose story went viral.
posted by pseudonick at 1:30 AM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

They are gone. I decided to give him a call and keep things light but let him know that they needed to go. Turns out he had no idea, he posted them as a group a few days ago and never noticed that the cadaver shots got mixed in with the bunch. They were never suppose to be uploaded. He was VERY appreciative of the call was mortified that the pictures had ended up on the net. It seems like this will never happen again, at least not with him. He sounded positively ill when he asked "My photos of WHAT?" Thank you all for the advice.
posted by Felex at 1:51 AM on November 30, 2010 [21 favorites]

I would suggest that this outcome would be another point for people like Uniformitarianism Now! and others supervising such Anatomy labs to address when asked "why aren't pictures allowed?" One doesn't even need to MEAN for pictures to become public for them to become public.
posted by endless_forms at 8:40 AM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

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