People generally wonder why Facebook and Twitter seem to ban all forms of nudity, including the display of bare breasts. (Well, female breasts anyways.) Other sites have less troubles with displaying a bit of nudity. And people will always wonder why e.g. Facebook is that prudish. They even have troubles with pictures of women who are breastfeeding. But on other sites they tend to have less troubles with the same type of content.
For example Tumblr has almost no restrictions to the material posted there, as long as it is legal to publish. On Twitter you’re allowed a bit more, like posting nipples in tweets. They won’t allow pornography, though. Many sites won’t, anyways. Still, there’s a good reason for this. The people who will join a specific site do so because of the generic content of the site.
Many social sites are aiming at teens and young adults and this means that the content needs to qualify to specific rules, especially if the site operates in the USA. For example, most people won’t be happy when their teens are visiting sites that has the occasional nude image. (Like this blog, for example.) They would block those sites, thus the site can’t target those teens with advertisements.
For Facebook, this would be a problem. Facebook has plenty of advertisements but also plenty of games that attract teens and young adults. They use Facebook to meet with friends, play games and whatever more. Thus, Facebook depends on this group of people and thus has to respond when people report “inappropriate material”. And because they have plenty of teens, they are extremely strict at that. Tumblr has less troubles with this. They make money from the bloggers themselves by offering premium services and premium themes. They also provide advertisements, although those are barely noticeable.
Tumblr doesn’t really target teens so the content can include nudity and even pornography. Because of that, it’s no surprise that you can find plenty of those on Tumblr.
And WordPress? Well, WordPress is available in several versions. You can host it on your own server, you can have it hosted by a service provider or you do as I do and let it be hosted by WordPress themselves. The hosted versions might be a bit more strict because the hosting provider has a reputation to keep up. Worse, since the blogger is paying the provider, the provider might prefer to have less visitors instead of many, to save bandwidth. Nude pictures are often large amounts of data and with many visitors the provider loses bandwidth.
Self-hosted WordPress sites have no restrictions, though. The worst thing that could happen is that police will confiscate your hardware and arrest you if you happened to host some illegal content.
So, one main reason to block nudity is because people don’t want their teen children being exposed to it. (While plenty of teens might actually be specifically looking for this material and might even exchange nude selfies with friends.) Social sites will have to know the type of visitors they generally have and adjust their content to those visitors.
At SecondLife, for example, the rules for content within the game were mostly quite relaxed. People were allowed a lot in their own lands, as long as it was marked as mature or adult. But SecondLife got into troubles after it was discovered that many underage teens would play the game too. And those teens were suddenly exposed to nudity, sex and a lot of other things. So they decided to create a separate version just for teens and kicked every teen from the adult world to the “nicer” teen world. And if new teens are discovered in the adult world, they too are kicked to the “kindergarten”.
And they banned most of the adult stuff from most areas except for the adult areas. Since you have to pay a lot to have an adult area, this meant that many people just left the game. SecondLife now has some competition because some developers started to create the OpenSimulator where people could just host their own second world on their own system.
This became even more complex after some groups started to combine forces and started hosting virtual world similar to SecondLife, but for much less money or even free. Because of this and the ban on adult material, SecondLife has lost a lot of people.
There are, of course, more reasons. Sites that want to have viewers in e.g. China need to be aware of the restrictions the Chinese government puts on content. No pornography and preferably no bashing of the government itself. Sites focussing on the USA might also block pornography because there are a lot of people in the USA whose religious views are against such images.
In the UK they’re even demanding that providers just block all pornography and adult sites, which led to plenty of protests because too much was blocked. So, sites who want to target citizens in the UK better clean themselves up so they will get past those (faulty) porn filters.
Again, Facebook belongs to those, thus they definitely want to stay clean. Basically, social sites have to choose between those who claim there’s too much nudity versus those who want to have more nudity. Some want more, others want less. And social sites just tend to listen to those who have the most power. Not the majority but those who have the biggest influence. And those would be the lawmakers.
For example, mentioning the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 will likely get you banned in China. Not practical if you want to trade with people in China. Facebook has similar problems but all over the world. In too many countries the law puts some very strict restrictions on nudity. The USA and UK aren’t even the worst of them.
Facebook is also popular among Arab people, India and plenty of other cultures that frown upon female nipples. They want advertisers everywhere to pay them so they make a lot of profit and thus they have to give in to the demands of those lawmakers. Fortunately they also want to be in Europe so they can’t be too strict on their content, but still…
Nipples are banned because it might offend advertisers in certain areas. That would even apply to pictures of women breastfeeding their child. Male nipples are generally less offensive, though. So yes, there’s discrimination in the Facebook policies. But giving in to the demand to allow more nudity would cost them some of their advertisers, thus some of their revenue. It would only be worth their trouble if people would ban Facebook because of this strict policy.
Unfortunately, no advertiser is blocking Facebook because they don’t show enough nipples. And that’s why social media block nipples…