Facebook CEO Criticized For Deleting Iconic Photo of 'Napalm Girl'

Recently, some Norwegian movers and shakers mocked Facebook for abusing its editorial power after repeatedly deleting an iconic Vietnam War photo from the site.

Facebook is known to censor nudity, but recently some Norwegian politicians and journalists are fed up with the social media website’s indiscriminate deleting of one of the most famous images from the Vietnam War, known as the “napalm girl,” Buzzfeed reported

Even Prime Minister Erna Solberg weighed in on the controversy on Friday morning, but her Facebook post was deleted, too.

If Omran Daqneesh is the face of Aleppo’s suffering today, Kim Phuc was the face of the horrific plight of Vietnam’s civilians nearly 45 years ago.

The depiction of nine-year-old Phuc running for her life as she burned from a napalm attack is known to have hastened the end of the Vietnam War. The photograph raised international awareness of the war’s nasty impact on civilians, who were being burned alive, and now, Facebook’s tone-deaf editorial approach appears to be misinterpreting it as child pornography.

Twitter, @france7776

The row against Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg began when Norwegian writer Tom Egeland was suspended from Facebook earlier this week for a post that was considered to be pornographic. He had shared an anti-war message accompanied by the 1972 image, for which Facebook removed his account.

Norway’s largest newspaper, Aftenposten, wrote an article about Egeland’s suspension, but when they posted it on Facebook, the media giant quickly deleted it. The newspaper then received a message from Facebook that they should either “remove or pixelize” the photo.

On Thursday, the editor-in-chief of Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten wrote an open letter to Zuckerberg, stating:

“Listen, Mark, this is serious. First you create rules that don’t distinguish between child pornography and famous war photographs. Then you practice these rules without allowing space for good judgment. Finally you even censor criticism against and a discussion about the decision – and you punish the person who dares to voice criticism.

Dear Mark, you are the world’s most powerful editor. Even for a major player like Aftenposten, Facebook is hard to avoid. In fact we don’t really wish to avoid you, because you are offering us a great channel for distributing our content. We want to reach out with our journalism.

However, even though I am editor-in-chief of Norway’s largest newspaper, I have to realize that you are restricting my room for exercising my editorial responsibility. This is what you and your subordinates are doing in this case.

I think you are abusing your power, and I find it hard to believe that you have thought it through thoroughly.”

This apparently inspired PM Solberg to share her own Facebook post about the nudity controversy on Friday morning, asking Facebook to “review its editorial policy,” but her post was erased. 

She then rebutted with her own “censored” version of the photograph in question, along with other war photos which had been censored to prove the point that Facebook’s editorial blindness isn’t useful.

The efforts to fight Facebook's editorial approach wasn't in vain, however. On Friday, the corporation declared it would no longer censor the image because of its historical significance. A spokesperson said the photo won't be published immediately, however. "It will take some to adjust these systems, but the photo should be available for sharing in the coming days."



Banner photo credit: Facebook, Erna Solberg

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