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A UK BDSM club called Collared has taken on Facebook over its total ban on all kink and BDSM pages and groups, and has won a review of the policy. Last week Facebook wrote to Collared to confirm that it was actively enforcing a total ban on all fetish and BDSM content and that all fetish related groups and pages on its site will be subject to deletion without exception.

Collared had sought clarification of the policy followed the removal of the Facebook Collared Events page on February 4th. The Collared page was deleted by Facebook following a complaint from a site user.

However following extensive communication with senior staff of the company Collared has successfully lobbied the Internet giant to review the ban. Facebook is currently engaged in a wide ranging “internal dialogue” to clarify the prohibition and to determine whether a total ban is justified. Collared will be consulted throughout this process.

Facebook has reiterated that the review process will not necessarily result in a reversal of the ban. Instead it may focus on creating greater consistency, clarity and transparency in the enforcement of the prohibition.

The deletion angered and mystified many Collared members and supporters. As a community non-profit organization with a well-known and proven focus on safety and socialization the Facebook page was used merely as a means of communication between members. There was no explicit imagery or sexual content of any kind and the page was “secret”. The Page strictly followed the Facebook Terms at and especially condition (3.7);
“You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.”

One of Collared’s representatives immediately contacted Richard Allan, Facebook’s Head of Policy for Europe and asked for an explanation for the action, and that the deletion decision be reviewed. To its credit, Facebook responded swiftly, but the company’s explanation was, at best unsettling and at worst institutionally discriminatory and ignorant. Richard Allan contacted the Review Team responsible for the decision and was told “Any content that is primarily related to sexual activities is deemed to be in breach whether or not the there are any overtly explicit photos on the Facebook page”. This applies whether the content is a closed or open group and whatever the nature of the sexual activity.

In other words, Facebook deleted the page on the basis of its perception of the group’s intent and motivation even though there was no sexual discussion or imagery on the page. The position is radically more severe than the Facebook terms specify, i.e. “pornographic” and “nudity”. That is, where the Facebook terms lay down guidance based on published content, the company has arbitrarily extended this prohibition to include motivation and intent.

This apparent policy shift should concern the entire fetish and BDSM community as it signals a discriminatory and inconsistent application of an unethical policy.

Facebook subsequently wrote to us arguing that: “When it comes to fetish content this is generally regarded as always sexual rather than social in nature and removed from the site.”

This position is grossly unfair. It is also deeply offensive as it assumes that anyone interested in fetish has not only no interest in socializing, but has no right to socialize through Facebook. This is an attitude we might have expected from homophobes in the 1950s. This same position was adopted by the US military in its discredited “Don’t ask, don’t tell” practice. People interested in fetish are clearly seen as soft targets for persecution.

In a subsequent email to Richard Allan of 15th February we pointed out:
“I can’t tell you that fetish has no sexual dimension because to do so would be a lie. What I can tell you is that the purpose of the Collared page was to support and communicate to people with a fetish interest in a non-sexual way – much the same as countless other groups – which is more than can be said about the countless drool pages on FB dedicated to hottest guys and hottest women. Does the Review Team concern itself over whether people masturbate over these postings and images? Or does the Review Team believe people exercise a purely academic interest over Jodie Foster’s thighs?”

We are not interested in the Collared Facebook page being reinstated under these dangerous and unfair conditions. We will instead work with Facebook to ensure that the policy is amended to guarantee that enforcement action is based on measurable content rather than a twisted moralistic perception.

You can find more info on Collared official website.



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