The Issue

The human body has always been a central subject of art. Its representations have evolved with technologies of expression: from cave drawings, to sculpture and painting, to photography and video.

Yet leading 21st century social media platform, Instagram, the most popular platform for artists who share their work online, and its parent company, Facebook, both ban photographic representations of the nude body, while making an exception for artistic nudity in sculpture and painting.

The Art Action: On June 2, 2019, the National Coalition Against Censorship and artist-photographer Spencer Tunick created a nude installation in New York City to challenge the censorship of artistic nudity on Facebook and Instagram.

Spencer Tunick arranges nude models in front of Facebook headquarters
Photo credit: Fay Fox

What’s at Stake?

Social media has dramatically increased artists’ ability to reach–and build–their audiences. Unless their medium is photography and their subject is the body.

The nudity ban prevents many artists from sharing their work online. It particularly harms artists whose work focuses on their own bodies, including queer and gender-nonconforming artists, and the bodies of those in their communities. Museums and galleries are constrained when even promoting exhibitions featuring nudes.

To raise awareness about the range of art censored by Facebook and Instagram, artist-photographer Spencer Tunick created a public art action in June 2019. 125 nude bodies took a stance in the streets of New York City against social media censorship of art.

For decades, many activists and artists have worked to destigmatize the body and oppose bans on its representations both online and off. It is impossible to mention them all. Highlighted here are just a few who have fought against unreasonable — and arbitrarily applied — online “community guidelines”:

  • Lina Esco, a longtime activist, launched the 2012 #FreeTheNipple campaign and 2014 film to spotlight the censorship of women’s nipples.
  • In 2014, artist Micol Hebron created a digital male nipple pasty in response to Instagram censoring images of a topless performance at a breast cancer benefit.
  • Shoog McDaniel is a queer artist whose fat-positive photography is frequently removed from Instagram, even photos that Shoog pre-censors. They also highlighted how Instagram’s content-reporting process allows users to target “hated” bodies.
  • Photographer Dragana Jurisic‘s Instagram account was removed over a photograph of a nude model whose breasts were “self-censored with a leaf” to abide by community guidelines. The image was removed anyways, along with thousands of other posts.
  • Savannah Spirit uses Instagram to create and distribute her photographs, including nude self-portraits, among her fans, curators and potential collectors. After grappling with frequent removals and a difficult appeals process, and several account deletions, Savannah began to diligently pixelate the nipples in all her portraits. Regardless, many of her images continue to be removed.
  • Painter Clarity Haynes explores the torso as a site for portraiture, focusing on themes of healing, trauma and self-determination. Clarity is a tireless activist whose work supports the visibility of the LGBTQ body. She has repeatedly and singlehandedly rallied support when artists’ images are erroneously deleted and accounts removed, as she did recently when artist Betty Tompkins’s account was taken down over a painting. Clarity, also a painter, has been repeatedly removed from Facebook for up to a week, at times affecting her ability to promote her shows. Despite the guidelines allowing paintings and drawings of nudes, Clarity and Betty’s works are censored several times a month, followed by several weeks of “shadow banning.”

The Campaign

We call on Facebook and Instagram to create an exception to their nudity restrictions to allow for art in the medium of photography.

Platforms like Instagram allow up-and-coming artists, and all artists without access to traditional methods of distribution, to reach global audiences on a scale unimaginable to earlier generations. Museums and art institutions can open their collections, and promote shows, to ever-widening audiences. Particularly for photographers, Instagram has opened new worlds of exploration and expression.

Facebook and Instagram users are diverse. Some may admire the human body, while others see it as a sign of humanity’s fall from grace. However, individual users can always choose to block content that they dislike. It should not be Facebook’s role to impose the beliefs of some of its users on the entire global community and do so in a way that stifles artistic expression.

Banishing all photographic images of the nude human body from social media, even when some of these images are in the collections of the worlds’ top museums, imposes an anachronistic regime of shame and censorship.

We ask Facebook and Instagram to remove that mantle of shame and update its Community Guidelines/Standards so to allow for artistic creativity to thrive.

Read NCAC’s official letter to Facebook

Supporting Organizations, Museums and Art Institutions

Supporting Artists, Practitioners and Arts Supporters

Douglas Abraham, aka @bessnyc4 (founder of BESS, NYC)
William T. Ayton (Artist, Rhinebeck, NY)
Tamas Banovich (Artist, Curator; founder Postmasters Gallery, NY)
Terry Berkowitz (Artist, Professor Emeritus, Baruch College/CUNY)
Kathy Brew (Artist, Curator, Academic, NY)
Kathe Burkhart (Artist, NY)
Lillian Bustle (Burlesque artist and body liberationist)
Collecteurs – The Collective Museum of Private Collections (Digital Museum, NY)
Vicki DaSilva (Artist, Nova Scotia, Canada)
Leah DeVun (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Eric A Doeringer (Artist, NYC)
Nona Faustine (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Benjamin Franke (Artist, Curator, Art Critic, Academic, Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA)
Kirby Gookin (Academic, curator, writer)

Grab Them By The Ballot (Artistic intervention for women’s rights)
Grace Graupe-Pillard (Artist, Keyport, NJ)
Stamatina Gregory (Curator, Academic, Brooklyn, NY)
Clarity Haynes (Independent artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Robin Kahn (Artist, curator)
Greg Kitowicz (Museum Director, Fotografiska, NY)
Natalia Koliada and Nicolai Khalezin (Artistic Directors and Co-founders of Belarus Free Theatre)
Soumiya Krishnaswamy (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Andree Laramee (Artist, Academic, Brooklyn, NY)
Lisa Levy (Artist, Radio Free Brooklyn, NY)
Shelley Marlow (Artist, author, Brooklyn, NY)
Marilyn Minter (Artist, NYC)
Renny Molenaar (Artist, Philadelphia, PA)
Olek (Artist, NYC)
Dr. DaniĂšle Perrier (Curator, Museum Director, Art Critic, ICOM AICA VKKS, Germany)
Marshall Reese (Artist, NYC)

Yoram Roth (Artist, Museum Owner, Berlin, Germany)
Carol Salmanson (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Nelson Santos (Artist and curator, NYC)
Richard Schwamb (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Paul Mpagi Sepuya (Artist, Los Angeles, CA)
Andres Serrano (Photographer and Artist, NY)
Savannah Spirit (Artist, NYC)
Beau Stanton (Artist, NY)
Betty Tompkins (Artist, NYC)
Sarah Trigg (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Spencer Tunick (Photographer, NY)
Sophia Wallace (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Brian Ward Wiggins (Artist, Gallery Director, Allentown, PA)
John Weber (Founding Director Institute of the Arts and Sciences U.C. Santa Cruz)

Lhote Jean-Claude (Naturist, France)
Rich DeNune (Artist, Academic, Syracuse, NY)
Doug Kalemba (Art lover, Brooklyn, NY)
Nick & Lins (Blogger, Belgium)
Matilde Cirulli (Art Student, Ravenna, Italy)
Selwyn Channon (Art lover, Epsom Surrey UK)
Pierre St-Arnault (Artist, Cowansville, Quebec, Canada)
Danny Ochoa (Artist, NYC)
Brett Miller
John A. (Jack) van Riper, Jr. (Bodypaint model, NJ)
Ty Jennings (Artist, NYC)
Maria Clara Macri (Artist, Italy)
Denise Rambo (Arts Volunteer, Philadelphia, PA)
Keith Meyers (Artist, NJ)
Amy Morales (Bodypaint Model, NY)
Lena Moriarty (Artist, NYC)
Craig Tracy (Artist, New Orleans)
Cecly Placenti (Artist, Art Critic, NYC)
Jessica Mumford (Artist, NYC)
Roy (Art Critic, New Zealand)
Allison Armfield (Brooklyn, NY)
Michelle Wallen (Artist, NY)
Brian (Artist, Columbus, Ohio)
Katie Didrichsen (Artist, NYC)
Abby Foulis (Artist, USA)
Steve Roogow (New Jersey)
Tony Ray (Artist, Bronx, NY)
Lior Allay (Artist, NYC & Philadelphia, PA)
Julia Ferreira (Art admirer, Philadelphia, PA)
Nicole DuBow (Model, Haverstraw, NY)
Nora Rosenberg (Artist, Model, Austin, TX)
Corey Chambers (NYC and Miami, FL)
Paul J Toussaint (Artist, Curator, Connecticut / New York City)
Mark Laigle (Model, CT)
Sophie Richards (Artist, NYC)
Dave Ellis (Art lover)
Gerard Kelly (Theatrical wig designer, IATSE, NYC)
JM Oliveri (Artist, Danbury, CT)
Matthew Principe (Curator, NYC)
Rebecca Myles (Writer, NY)
Thomas Simmons (Artist, Academic, Chester, VT)
Stephanie Sklut (Brooklyn, NY)
Josh Sklut (Brooklyn, NY)
Stephanie Williams (Artist, Dance Theatre of Harlem, NYC)
Elina, aka gay swans (Artist, India)
Leilani Makhija (Artist, Singapore)
Yashika Sruthi S (Artist, Chennai, India)
Pranav Selot (Art lover, New Delhi, India)
Marina (Art lover, NYC)
Shubhie Goswamy (Artist, New Delhi, Bangalore, India)
Christopher Burris (Artist, Photographer, Brooklyn, NY)
Gretchen Elder (Art lover)
Dallas Pace (Artist, Ithaca, NY)Colin Godwin (Performer, Jersey City, NJ)
David Phillips (Artist, Jersey City, NJ)
Brion Vytlacil (Artist, NYC)
Chuck Hettinger (Artist, NYC)
Jehdy Vargas (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Richard Quinn (Artist, NY)
Theodore Dudek (Artist, Long Island, NY)
Jerry Abache (Artist)
Kelly Selnik (Performance art, Art lover, hobbyist; Artists Wrestling League, Akron, OH)
Julie Collier (CT)
Kevin Panko (Performance, Sea Tea Improv, Hartford CT)
Daniel Leyva (Art supporter and enthusiast, NYC)
Eric Malherbe (Artist, France)
Jana Astanov (Artist, curator, NY)
Juan Alomia (Artist, NY)
Jackie Hocking (Artist, Remote Community Art Centre Manager)
Andrea Salgado (Artist, NYC)
Ben Alexander (Academic, NYC)
Iftach Dafni (Artist, Tel Aviv, Israel)
Stephen Dunn (Rockaway, NY)
Derron Palmer (Art lover, NY/NJ)
Linda Carlson (Artist)
RomĂĄn Pupato (Art lover, Dublin, Ireland)
Edward Siegel (Artist, NY)
Jorge Guaman (Artist, Stamford, CT)
Mike Razniewski (Academic, Stuttgart, Germany)
Stacey Cadman (Art Therapist, Geelong, Victoria, Australia)
Tony Davis (Art connoisseur, Montreal, Quebec, Canada)
Candace Jahn (Artist, Portland, Oregon)
Fredrick Heiser (Art lover, Santa Clarita, CA)
Charles Froelich
Paul Kater (Author, The Netherlands)

Tangela Hamilton (Singer, actrezz, NYC)
Rory McGrath (Curator, Ireland)
Lula Castillo (Artist, NY)
Henrik Simonsen (Artist, photographer, Denmark)
Jonathan Duran (Artist, NJ)
Maria Vassileva (Curator, Structura Gallery, Sofia, Bulgaria)
Naeim Rahmani (Artist/Musician/ Guitarist, Seattle, WA)
Dimitar Kambourov (Academic, Trinity College Dublin)
Lars Ø Ramberg (Artist, Berlin)
Db (Artist, NYC)
Martcel Albion (Photographer, The Netherlands)
Lester (Artist, NY)
James Chute (Artist, Art Critic, ME)
Rodolfo Tellez (Art fan, Philadelphia, PA)
Ulrike Emigh (Translator, RI)
Henry Chamberlain (Artist, Seattle, WA)
Tiffany (Model, Carlsbad, CA)
Brigitte Dunkel (Artist, Cologne, Germany)
Tammy G. Harrison (Artist, Midlothian, VA)
Kate Veilleux (Artist, Art Therapist, photographer and model, CT)
Dick Jewell (Artist, London)
Samantha Ylva Hawks (Artist, Fine Art Photography Model, Brooklyn, NY)
Melissa Rodriguez (Artist, Long Island, NY)
J. Wayne Higgs (Artist, Hughesville, MD)
Lenny (Nude model, New York, NY)
Yael (Artist, NY)
Iris Velez (Art Critic, Bronx, NY)
Tony Tone (Photographer, Hempstead, NY)
Candela Errandonea (Artist, FundaciĂłn Julio Bocca, Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Fostin Cotchen (Art lover)
Alexander Kimball (Artist, CT)
Omer (Artist, NYC)
Laura Aiisha (Artist, Curator, digital nomad)
Neil Fleischer (Art model, Actor and Musician, New York)
Sarah Garcea (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Charles Lord (Advocate of social nudity, Asheville, NC)
Nick Price (Artist, NY)
Annie Brown (Curator, Founder of Lips, uncensored platform for artistic expression, San Diego, CA)
Jeff George (Artist, Nude Model, USA, Canada and India)
Nancy Mack (Architect, mother, LA/NY)
Riley McGregor (Art fan)
Erika Kuciw (Artist, NY)
Jessica Snyder (Artist, Sellersville, PA)
Vince Rostkowski (Artist, Emmaus, PA)
Andy Myers (Library and Information Science professional, Jackson, MI)
Ć pela (Model, Slovenia)
Andrew Ratcliff (Artist, New York)
Mike Cronin (Curator, Newcastle, UK and New York)
Alexandra Rutsch Brock (Artist, Curator, Pelham Art Center; Public HS art teacher, New Rochelle, NY and Stamford,CT)
Heide Hatry (Artist, Curator, NYC)
Christopher Westfall (Artist, Ithaca, NY)
Tony Lee (Musician and DJ, Brooklyn, NY)
Brianna Battista (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Pierre Poirier (Art lover, Huntingdon, Quebec, Canada)
Brianna Gianti (Artist, Washington DC)
Julie Kellman (Artist, Academic, New York and Seattle)
Rosalina Mills (Academic, NY & RI)
ThalĂ­a Noboa (Art enthusiast, journalist)
Mathilda Alaimo (Artist, Rome, Italy)
Megan Smith (Art lover, Denver, CO)
Stephanie Carvalhaes (Artist)
Tyler Berry (Nashville, TN)
Monika Kasprowicz (Artist, KrakĂłw, Poland)
Raptor (Artist, Singapore)
Clara De Gobert (Artist, Paris)
Caroline Barnard (Artist, Gauteng, South Africa)
Marion Hilaire (Artist, Los Angeles, CA)
Tatiana Sada (Marketing & PR, Mexico City)
Allison McAndless (Artist, Academic, Maryland/Manitoba)
Andrea De Iacobis (Academic, Italy)
Alexandra Gray (Artist)
Rosie Munden (Artist, London, UK)
GermĂĄn PinzĂłn CĂĄrdenas (Artist, Art Critic, BogotĂĄ, Colombia)
Chris (Artist, Canada)

Rich DeNune (Artist, Academic, Syracuse, NY)
Daniel Mannerie (Art lover, Lillois-Witterzée, Belgium)
Francois Boo (Art lover, Alexandria, VA)
Emily (Human Sexuality Educator, NYC/SF)
Joseph Stanilewicz (Academic, NY)
Paige Shovlin (Non-profit founder, Raritan, NJ)
Heather Lotus (Artist, NY)
Mal Harrison (Academic, Educator, NYC)
Alison Stinely (Artist, Academic, Portsmouth, VA)
Scott Reilly (Academic, NY)
Johnathan Lewis (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Julia Sabrina (Art lover, West Virginia)
Tasia Hadden (Artist)
Killy (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Billy Edwarda (Art lover)
Martha Glauser (Artist, Buffalo, New York)
Hannah Moore (Art Critic, Academic, New York)
Tetsuya Shimada (Illustrator, Tokyo, Japan)
Patrice Puhl (Artist, Marina, CA)
Gymnos Alitheia (Artist, NYC)
Farah Marie Velten (Artist, Academic, Brooklyn, NY)
Thaddeus Root (Artist, St. Petersburg, FL)
James (Nudist, Upstate NY)
Lila Brenenstuhl (Academic, Albany, NY)
Ayun Halliday (Artist, New York)
Sheba (Artist, Maryland)
Kate Tucker (Art admirer, NY)
Maria Victoria Petek (studying to be a cinema director, Argentina)
Tim Beemer (Art lover, NYC)
Sidney Oolongo (Artist, Curator, NYC)
Melanie Taffel (Art lover, NYC)
M. Capuano (Life drawing model, Sound Beach, NY)
Laura DiGiovanna (Lover of Art, New York)
Jeremy (Artist, Hobart, NY)
Raoul Daniel Luna (Artist, NYC/NJ; SAG/AFTRA, Actor’s Equity, card carrying member of ACLU-NJ, married to a treasured LGBTQI2S+ rights attorney)
Scott Reilly (Model, NYC)
Ginger Claremohr (Model and Journalist, Indianapolis, IA)
Pedro (Art lover, NYC)
Andrea Garcia (Art lover, Lyon, France)
Fernanda Molina (Artist, Academic)Gayle Snible (Arts supporter, NYC)
Clay (Academic, Genoa, Italy)
Lester T. Shane (Artist, NY)
Emese Fayk (New York)
Michael D Fellows (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Patrick Chaitoo (Artist, NY)
Santiago RamĂ­rez (Artist, NY)
Elina SaunamÀki (Teacher, Helsinki, Finland)
Lilli Schofer (Art lover, Germany)
Elsa (Artist, NYC)
Charissa
Madeline Berns (Museum Director, Atlanta, GA)
Janet Letkeman (Artist, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)
Alicia (Art lover)
Andrew Adams (Stripper, comedian, Brooklyn, NY)
Azra Hamitoglu (Artist)
Eliane Awada (Artist, NY)
Monica (Art admirer, Philadelphia, PA)
Connor OHara (Artist, NY)
Mariska Driessen (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Jorge Guaman (Artist, Stamford, CT)
Charlotte Desormeaux (Artist, Model & Writer, Atlanta, GA)
Lennon Ryles (Art lover, NY)
Stephanie DiBello (Art lover, NJ)
Dr. Jennifer Booker (Artist, Academic, Philadelphia PA)
Rafael Mesa (Artist, Venezuela)
Vagelis Georgopoulos (Artist, Athens, Greece)
Emily Maleah Tench (Artist, Greensboro, NC)
Nikolay Stefanov (Sofia, Bulgaria)
Chip Waldron (Collector, Arts lover, Austin, TX)
Dan Younger (Artist, Saint Louis, MO)
MeloDee Faith Mileez (Artist)
Mary McCabe (Art appreciator, Queensland, Australia)
P Simon (Artist, Academic)
Kenzie (Artist, Florida)
Dida Sundet (Artist, Wollongong, Australia)

C. Giordano (Artist, Art educator, The Cooper Union Alumni Association, NYC/NY)Collin Snider (Artist, Photographer, New England)
Paul Gallagher (Photographer, Liverpool, UK)
Sankul (Artist, India)
Andreas Westhoff (Collector, Munich, Germany)
Beverly Shelton (Art lover, New jersey)
Kyle Davis (Art Collector/Art Lover, Tell City, IN)
Dread Singh (Artist, New York)
Jessa O’Brien (Body positive advocate, Australia)
Maria de Villeneuve (Artist, New York City)
Angel Davila (Photographer, Hoboken. NJ)
Nicole (Artist, New York)
Heather Van Uxem Lewis (Artist, Academic, NYC)
Bonnie Hulk-ower (Curator, Los Angeles, CA)
Eric Green (Artist, New York)
Rick Quinn (Artist, NYC)
Emilia Vergara Villamil (Lover of Art, Student of Arts, Germany)
Philip Tuley (Artist, Clearlake Oaks, CA)
Collin Snider (Artist, New Hampshire)
Alexander Niepel (Artist, Munich, Germany)
Peter Stet (Academic, Tiel, the Netherlands)
Marc Grönnebaum, aka TheMetamorphosis (Artist, DĂŒsseldorf)
David Pumo (Model and Artist Assistant, NY)
Ali Dian (Artist, NY)
Thayer Porter (Artist, NYC)
Caroline Guldbrandsen (Art lover, Brooklyn, NY)
Joanna Cohen (Art Advisor, Paris & New York)
Christopher Metress (Artist, Spring Valley, NY)
Jeff Rhoades (Author, web designer, Stockton, MA)
Edgar Arturo Nunez (Artist, Dominican Republic)
Bridget Duggan (Art lover, Washington)
Hannah Kasamias (Artist, Cleveland, OH)
Henrik Simonsen (Artist, Denmark)
Glen Ocean West (Artist, Syney, Australia)
Benedicta Badia (Curator, Critic, Academic, Singapore)
Billy Edwards (Art lover)
Patricia (Photographer, PA)
Eva Mueller (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Brian Leonard (East Syracuse, NY)
Jed Fielding (Artist, Chicago, IL)
Zane Rhodes (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Morgan Zook (Artist)
AnĂĄlia Baggiano (Artist, Argentina)
Pedro Zagitt (Artist, Philadelphia, PA)
Ilvy Kokomo (Artist, Riga, Latvia)
Robert Sundeen (Model, NYC)
Katelyn Landis (Artist, NYC / Cleveland, OH)
Daphne Glasberg (Fashion Designer, Berlin & NYC)
Lukas (NYC)
Edward Hutchinson (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Alejandro Glatt (Artist, Tel Aviv / Mexico City)
Garry Novikoff (Musician, New Rochelle, NY)
Kate (Artist, Academic, Emily Carr University, Toronto and Vancouver, Canada)
Alexandre Reis (Artist, Curator, Art Critic, Ilhéus, Brazil)
Keri-lynn Henderson (Artist, New Jersey)
Francis Torchio (Photographer, Bronx, NY)
Francisca Maffei (Architect, Chile)
Adrian Green (Artist, Brooklyn, NY)
Brian Tollerman (Artist, NYC)
Martin Kyulhandzhiev (Artist, Plovdiv, Bulgaria)
Richard Keyes (Model, NYC)
Norm Yip (Artist, Hong Kong)
Fern Orenstein (Founder non-profit, San Francisco Bay Area)
Andi Agne (Artist, Academic, Minnesota)
Ian B (Art lover, Kent, UK)
Jonathan Livingston (Artist, Tulsa, OK)
Amit Bar (Artist, The Netherlands)
Beemkaa (Artist, Brussels, Belgium)
Rosanna Dean (Artist, London, UK)
Sarah Marie West (Artist, Kentucky)
Johannes Christopher Gerard (Artist, The Hague, The Netherlands and Berlin, Germany)

Join the campaign and challenge the censorship of artistic nudity on Facebook and Instagram.

Media inquiries

About the Artist

Spencer Tunick has staged more than 75 large-scale installations of hundreds or thousands of nude participants in urban and natural settings around the world. Yet, in order to share his work on Instagram, he is forced to meticulously–and overwhelmingly–censor himself by individually blurring each and every nipple. Even when he does, his works are often removed and his ability to use the platform to reach his audience is threatened.

Instagram: @spencertunick
Facebook: facebook.com/spencertunick

Images courtesy of Spencer Tunick

We celebrate Micol Hebron, a feminist artist who created the Male Nipple Pasty in 2014. She encourages social media users to cover female nipples with a male nipple icon to both avoid censorship and call out the gender inequality of nudity restrictions.

Stories

Learn More

NCAC’s Arts Advocacy Program, launched in 2000, is the only national project dedicated to working directly with individual artists and curators involved in censorship disputes. It protects artists’ rights to participate in the democratic dialogue by defending public access to their work, and supporting their ability to freely express views that might be unpopular or controversial. We resolve controversies through education and advocacy, avoiding the need for legal action. Controversial issues are not confined to one medium of expression or one social sphere. We work with diverse constituencies to mobilize a wide base of support, produce policy documents and materials for educational programs, and analyze censorship trends. We also train artists to become their own advocates and develop strategies to counter censorship in all its ever-changing forms.

Read more about the complicated relationship between art and social media.

Get Involved

If you’d like to discuss how we can work together to create a better environment for artists on social media, please contact us at wethenipple@ncac.org.

We’d love to hear from you!

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