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Facebook Forced to Apologize After Banning Image of Plus-Size Model

The Tess Holliday photo that was banned by Facebook
The Tess Holliday photo that was banned by Facebook
Photo: @cherchezlafemme

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An Australian organization called Cherchez la Femme tried to post a Facebook ad this month for a body-positive event using a photo of Tess Holliday.

Holliday, a famous plus-size model and People covergirl, wears a bikini in the picture; the ad was rejected. Now The Guardian reports that Facebook is apologizing for banning that photo, which the social media service originally said didn’t comply with Facebook’s "health and fitness policy."

A rep for Facebook originally defended the ad ban when questioned by Cherchez la Femme, writing in part "the image depicts a body or body parts in an undesirable manner." (You can read the full message below.)

Yikes. Really, Facebook? Ignoring for a second the question of why Facebook has a "health and fitness policy," it appears to have gone awry.

Obviously, this explanation wasn't acceptable to Cherchez la Femme. "I was utterly furious. I couldn’t comprehend it, quite frankly," the group's co-organizer Jessamy Gleeson told The Guardian. "We thought it was really horrible and isolating and alienating … Women with fat bodies can, of course, be as desirable as anybody else."

Facebook reversed its position on Monday and apologized.

"Our team processes millions of advertising images each week, and in some instances we incorrectly prohibit ads," Facebook wrote in a statement to The Guardian. "This image does not violate our ad policies. We apologize for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ad."

Social media companies have a history of censoring images of curvy or plus-sized models; images that seemingly would've been allowed had the models been straight sizes. In 2015, Instagram came under fire for banning the hashtag #curvy. It was a popular hashtag for plus-size style bloggers, but Instagram said at the time that it was being banned because users used #curvy to "share content that violates our guidelines around nudity."

Instagrammers didn't buy this explanation. "I think what this boils down to is the fact that curvier bodies are simply treated as more obscene than thin bodies," Curvily blogger Sarah Chiwaya said in an interview with Business Insider.

Both plus-size style blogging and plus-size fashion — like Ashley Graham's trendy swim line with string bikinis designed for curvy girls — are breaking barriers, and it's not fair for social platforms to block that message from reaching users.