Flemish Master Peter Paul Rubens gets Facebook to review its advertising policy

Wednesday, September 26, 2018 — Facebook revises its advertising policy - after a playful protest against artistic censorship by VISITFLANDERS making headlines all over the world

On the 26th of September, Facebook and the Flemish Tourist board VISITFLANDERS had a fruitful encounter in the Rubens House museum: the former home of Flemish Master painter Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp, Belgium. This meeting took place at the request of Facebook in response to the open letter from VISITFLANDERS denouncing their stiff artistic advertising policy.

The social media platform adjusts its underlying algorithms so that today Facebook users are allowed to see advertisements containing artistic nudity. Where previously an advertisement with, for example, Rubens' version of Adam and Eve was blocked by Facebook, today we can promote gems of our Flemish Masters online. Facebook also indicated that in the short term they will simplify the procedure to contest blocked content with artistic nudity. Or how a playful stunt with an open letter and a constructive meeting in just two months can make the shift from 'inappropriate content' to 'approved content'. The representatives of VISITFLANDERS and Facebook discussed it over a Belgian beer and ended the meeting with a toast on the revision of the advertising policy.

Peter De Wilde, CEO of VISITFLANDERS is pleased: „The result of this meeting is a breakthrough for the artistic scene worldwide. Facebook was fast to respond to our playful protest. We invited Facebook for a meeting to find a solution, and that is what we got. This is an important milestone for cultural institutions and art lovers around the world.” 

VISITFLANDERS is satisfied with the solution: „Social media and art have a lot in common. Art brings people together. Social media brings people together, and our Flemish Masters too.” explains Peter De Wilde. With the new advertising policy, we can finally give the Flemish Masters the attention online they deserve. An ideal sneakpeak to trigger people to come and admire the Flemish Masters in full glory in Flanders.

For hundreds of years, Flemish master painter Peter Paul Rubens has been famous for his ‘fleshy’ nude paintings. When most of their ads to promote the art of Rubens on display in Flemish museums got censored by Facebook, VISITFLANDERS wrote a tongue-in-cheek open letter to Mark Zuckerberg requesting a meeting. It was signed by a group of national and international museums and requested a revision of Facebook’s advertising policy allowing the promotion of historical nude. To illustrate their point with a pinch of humour, the Flemish tourist board published a video featuring ‘social media police agents’ who physically blocked museum-goers with a Facebook account from viewing nude paintings. The result of this playful protest was overwhelming: the news travelled the world and Facebook got to accept the invitation to meet up.