This Touching Photo of a Dad Comforting His Son Keeps Getting Removed From Facebook

May 16th 2016

Laura Donovan

Sometimes, when nothing in the world seems right, children just need their parents to hold them.

Arizona-based photographer and mother, Heather Whitten understands this reality all too well. In 2014, when Whitten's son, Fox, was violently ill with what turned out to be salmonella, her husband, Thomas, took the boy into the shower to clean him up and calm him down.

Whitten photographed her husband comforting Fox, who was vomiting and having bad diarrhea, to document the tender father-son moment between them.

Heather Whitten Photography

"I snapped a couple of pictures," Whitten told TODAY Parents. "It was just beautiful. It was not surprising or anything out of the ordinary; it's how he has always been with the kids."

The image, however, has been largely misunderstood by many, she said. Whitten told TODAY Parents that she showed the photo to a class and that many of the students found it sexual. Whitten claims that Facebook removed her photo several times for apparently violating the platform's nudity policy, the TODAY show and several other news outlets have reported. Whitten has since reposted the image on her Facebook page alongside complaints about how the image was previously deleted.


A Facebook spokesperson told The Huffington Post UK that the image was wrongfully removed and is now back on Whitten's page:

“While we can’t comment on individual cases I can confirm, on background, that the photo does not break Facebook’s guidelines. It was removed in error and it has now been reinstated.”

A Facebook spokesperson released a similar statement to ATTN: via email:

“This photo was mistakenly removed by our team and does not violate our Community Standards. We are sorry for this mistake and have restored the photo to the page.”

Facebook's community standards nudity rule states that the platform removes "photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks" and restricts "some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring." Facebook states that it allows "photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures."

Whitten told ATTN: via email that Facebook never contacted her about deleting the image in the first place and that she has had other images removed from her page as well:

"I have not been alerted by Facebook at all about it being removed. So, no reason given to me. I've had a few other images removed along with this one over the last week or so. I was notified for some and not others. Some were reinstated. Others not. I have no idea what their method is, but it certainly isn't consistent!"


Whitten told TODAY Parents that she believes her son could benefit from seeing his dad protect him in the image.

"This is the kind of man that your father is and I hope that [Fox] will see that and never be ashamed or embarrassed by it," she said.

Many commenters agree that the image is touching and should not be viewed as sexual.


Facebook has faced criticism for censoring parenting images before.

A birth photographer named Morag Hastings recently called out Facebook for banning an image she took of a woman giving birth. Hastings wrote on Instagram last month that her 30-day suspension seemed unfair given the fact that Facebook did not remove the photo of reality star Kim Kardashian's butt on the cover of PAPER Magazine in fall 2014.

"[Confidence and liberation are] what birthing women should feel when they share their birth images and I shouldn't feel scared to post educational material," Hastings wrote. "Facebook has a double standard when it comes to birth images and it needs to be stopped. I have been put on a 30 day ban and my business page has been threatened to be unpublished for posting an image that fits inside of Fb's community Standards and I can't defend myself as they don't have a place to dispute. 😕 It's 2016 change needs to happen and it needs to happen soon."

Nearly a year ago, birth photographer Melissa Jean Wilbraham's Instagram account was deleted after she posted photos of breastfeeding women and women giving birth. Wilbraham complained about this on Facebook, stating that it was ironic that her Instagram account was deleted on the first day of World Breastfeeding Week.


"How ironic that the very day 'World Breastfeeding Week' began, my business was removed from Instagram," she wrote on Facebook at the time. "There will always be sad humans who report my images but I will NEVER let this stop me celebrating & normalizing the miracle of life."

Update 5/17/2017: This article has been updated to include a statement to ATTN: from Facebook.

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