Molly Malone statue in Dublin, with Trinity College in the background.Tony Pleavin / Tourism Ireland

Facebook have been forced to apologize for a decision which saw a book cover featuring the iconic Dublin statue of Molly Malone being deemed “too sexy” to appear on Facebook.

The social media site has since apologized for their initial block on the book’s cover and admitted that they made a mistake regarding the world-famous figure, believing at first that the image was an advert for a dating site.

The statue of Molly Malone, also known locally as “The Tart with the Cart” and “The Trollop with the Scallop(s)” in reference to urban legend that the fabled fishmonger may also have been a prostitute, has graced the capital city’s streets for the past 28 years.

The statue also appears on the front cover of Dublin author Frank Whelan’s first novel “Diary of the Wolf,” but Whelan was initially refused permission to advertise his book on the social media site based solely on poor Molly’s appearance.

Despite the Malone statue showing off her wares to passersby on busy Dublin streets for almost three decades now without complaint, Facebook’s team felt that the statue’s bronze-clad cleavage may distract from the cockles and mussels in her cart.

Hoping to use Facebook to promote “Diary of the Wolf,” first-time author Whelan submitted a copy of the cover – featuring two wolves, a full moon, and a picture of the Molly Malone statue – to Facebook Ads Team for consideration.

The team first believed that the image was an advert for a dating site, but even when Whelan cleared up the misunderstanding, the image was still rejected.

According to the Evening Herald, the Ads team wrote to the author stating: "Your ad was rejected because the image doesn't follow our ad policies. Ads may not use overly sexual images, suggest nudity, show a lot of skin or cleavage, or focus unnecessarily on specific body parts."

Hoping that the team would change their minds once they realized that the iconic statue has lain in plain sight in Dublin’s busy city center for such a long time, Whelan explained that the statue had attracted tourists just off Grafton Street and outside of Trinity College since 1988 before recently being moved to Suffolk Street due to a new Luas (tram) line through the area.

Despite his protests, Facebook was unwilling to back down telling Whelan that "our say on this matter remains unchanged."

Speaking to the Herald, the author said, "At first, I was amused, but I ended up feeling frustrated. I wanted to promote my novel on Facebook, but I definitely won't be changing the cover."

Politicians and Irish tourism organizations spoke out in support of the author and disputed Facebook’s decision to ban an image that is widely photographed by tourists and subsequently posted to social media.

"This is nonsense. Tens of thousands of parents are photographed with their children at the statue every year. Molly Malone is a well known image of our city," Dublin city councilor Dermot Lacey said.

Alex Connolly, spokesman for Failte Ireland, also commented that such is the fame of the statue that he would not be surprised if the image was not already "plastered all over Facebook by visitors to Dublin."

Connolly also questioned whether the same censorship should exist for other works of art around the world, saying, "Molly Malone is one of the most photographed statues in Dublin and in all of Europe.

"Rigidly applying such rules would also exclude images of many statues of ancient Greece and Renaissance Europe."

The company has since issued a statement in which they acknowledge the fame of the statue and their mistake in not allowing the book cover to be used in advertising.

“Our rules around nudity are in place to reflect the wide range of people on Facebook," the statement said.

"We always aim to strike a balance between artistic expression and making sure our global community feels comfortable. In reviewing this we made a mistake and quickly restored the advert once it was brought to our attention.

"We apologize for any inconvenience we caused.”

The statue of Molly Malone pays tribute to the character of the popular song of the same name (also known as “Cockles and Mussels” or “In Dublin’s Fair City”) and was unveiled by then Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alderman Ben Briscoe during the 1988 Dublin Millennium celebrations. Often thought to be the unofficial anthem of Dublin city, June 13 is celebrated as Molly Malone Day.