Today’s Solutions: November 29, 2021

The events of the past year or so have made us wonder: how much power should social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have over what we see, and what we are presented with?

Due to the pandemic, many of us are perceiving the world through our screens, and it’s only been too easy to flood those screens with misinformation. Now, amplifying this discussion is the Vienna Tourist Board, as they’ve been forced to move their public accounts to the less restrictive OnlyFans sharing platform.

The Vienna Tourist Board and some of Vienna’s museums had been posting some of the city’s historical artwork on the common roster of social media platforms, but according to Helena Hartlauer, a spokesperson for the Vienna Tourist Board, the images were removed and at times, the accounts would be closed, which is what spurred their move to OnlyFans.

“We question this kind of censorship because we believe it’s not a good idea to let an algorithm determine our cultural legacy,” Hartlauer told NPR.

“It might lead to some unconscious self-censorship when artists start to make art differently or collectors assemble their collections in a different way because they know a tool as strong as social media would not show or promote certain types of art,” she added. “This is quite frightening.”

Art pushes the boundaries of social media

The censorship of fine art by social media is not a new problem. Many other artists, like teacher Frédéric Durand-Baïssas, and art institutions, such as Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and The Leopold Museum, have had their accounts deactivated or posts banned for violating “community standards,” even though Facebook and Instagram’s community guidelines allow images of paintings and sculptures that depict nude figures, and TikTok bans nudity with possible exceptions for “artistic content.”

Generating publicity and conversation

Those who subscribe to Vienna’s OnlyFans channel before the end of October will be eligible for a free Vienna City Card or an admission ticket to one of the featured museums, including the Leopold Museum, Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, Naturhistorisches Museum Vienna, and Albertina.

While Hartlauer admits that the OnlyFans account is a way to pique the public’s interest in the city, saying that “you can promote a museum or a city like Vienna without necessarily posting exactly these images,” however, she also believes that the conversation about the threat of unchecked power that social media companies have. She hopes that people will be prompted to ask themselves what it could mean for the rest of us if we continue to allow social media platforms and algorithms to dictate the content we see and share.

There is “huge international and global interest in the topic,” she adds, “and this is actually more important to us.”

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